Today’s launch of a cargo mission to the International Space Station ended with the loss of the vehicle at about 2:19 into the launch.
From what I can see, it looks like a failure structurally somewhere forward on the vehicle, rather than the booster stages exploding.
Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and is commonly referred to as a dwarf planet. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft imaged it recently, and have shared their results in an animation.
NASA’s photo of the day – the Canary Islands are seen kicking up von Kármán vortices off the Atlantic coast of Africa: http://go.nasa.gov/1AUa3ww
Scottthebadger was kind enough to compliment my simile of Atlantis pinned like a butterfly on display. It’s even more obvious when you see the cargo bay doors open.
I promise to write more about this trip later, but the dearth of posts this weekend cries out for something, anything right now.
I took my family to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center. Something of a busman’s holiday, but that was okay. I’ll admit that it was not cheap (what in Florida is?) but it was a full day of exhibits and tours, plus the fun of a collegiate robotic challenge.
What I came to see was this:
I’ll admit, I cried when I first saw her, pinned like a butterfly on display when she should be soaring through space. But the exhibit for Atlantis is a good one, lots about the history of the Space Shuttle program, the accomplishments in telescopes, satellites, and assembly of ISS, remembrances of the crews we’ve lost, and spinoffs from space. And as a friend reminded me, better on display like this than a jumble of broken pieces hidden in a warehouse. She accomplished her mission, though I still think she was retired too soon.
Yesterday the Air Force hush-hush X-37B space plane successfully launched from Cape Canaveral.
In addition to whatever the Air Force has the X-37B doing, they allowed NASA to piggy-back an experiment aboard.
NASA is also taking advantage of this X-37B flight to test how almost 100 materials react to the harsh conditions of space, like the barrage of radiation and swings of temperature the craft will experience while passing between the day and night sides of the Earth for at least 200 days.
“It’s just sitting there and letting the environment hit it,” said Miria Finckenor, a materials engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. She is the principal investigator for the experiment, which is housed in the space plane’s cargo bay.
The materials to be tested include thermal coatings to keep spacecraft components within a certain range of temperatures, clear materials under consideration for lighter windows on NASA’s Orion crew capsule and ink to make sure that markings on parts do not fade away.
NASA previously tested more than 4,000 samples outside the International Space Station, but it is difficult to carve out time during spacewalks to set up and retrieve the experiments. “This opportunity presented itself, and we just needed to take advantage of it,” Ms. Finckenor said.
I’m just a simple grunt. Would you believe that I actually know three, count ‘em, three honest to goodness rocket scientists?
Sounds like my in-house Rocket Scientist/Super Model is busy this afternoon, so I’ll put up the space updates.
First, the mysterious X-37B is also taking along a not so hush-hush experiment. The METIS is similar to other tests such as LDF and MISSE on the reaction of various materials exposed to space for varying durations.
Building on more than a decade of data from International Space Station (ISS) research, NASA is expanding its materials science research by flying an experiment on the U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane.
By flying the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS) investigation on the X-37B, materials scientists have the opportunity to expose almost 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days. METIS is building on data acquired during the Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), which flew more than 4,000 samples in space from 2001 to 2013.
“By exposing materials to space and returning the samples to Earth, we gain valuable data about how the materials hold up in the environment in which they will have to operate,” said Miria Finckenor, the co-investigator on the MISSE experiment and principal investigator for METIS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “Spacecraft designers can use this information to choose the best material for specific applications, such as thermal protection or antennas or any other space hardware.”
We’re curious about something not mentioned in the release. How different is the orbit of the X-37B from the ISS, in terms of both altitude and inclination, and what effects might that have on the exposed materials?
Next up, Space-X. We’ve all enjoyed watching Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 attempt to safely land after orbital launch missions. Looks like they’ll try again in June. But the other major endeavor underway at Space-X is to crew certify a manned spacecraft. And one of the key tests for that is the pad abort. We’ve all seen the escape tower atop Mercury and Apollo capsules. Space-X uses a rather different approach with their manned variant of the Dragon spacecraft.
That’s an unmanned test, but I’m thinking Space-X could make some money selling that as a carnival ride.