Tag Archives: Launch

ISS Progress 59 cargo resupply ship burns up

28 Apr


Final mission status and updates:

• Updated: May 8, 2015 @ 11:30 a.m. EDT (15:30 UTC).
• Tracking data from USSTRATCOM indicates Progress 59 burnt up May 8, 2015 at 2:20 a.m. UTC, +/- 1 minute.
• Progress entered the atmosphere off the west coast of southern Chile at a distance of 1,300 to 350 km.
• It is possible some pieces of debris survived re-entry, and could have landed anywhere from hundreds of kilometers off the west coast of Chile, to hundreds of kilometers off the east coast (meaning some could have fallen on land).
• At time of this writing, there are no reports of re-entry being sighted nor any debris being located.
• The Progress’ Soyuz rocket launched April 28 on schedule with the unmanned cargo ship carrying 2,357 kg of cargo to the International Space Station.
• About nine minutes after launch, as Progress separated from the Soyuz, the cargo ship failed to activate and communicate with the ground as expected.
• Data from Progress showed the fuel system did not pressurized and multiple telemetry sensors required for ISS docking failed.
• Video downloaded from Progress showed the spacecraft in a spin.
• Tracking data showed nearly 50 pieces of spacecraft debris in the vicinity of Progress while in orbit, though the precise nature of the debris is unknown (it could have been debris from the upper stage of the rocket or Progress itself).
• The six crew on board the ISS are in no danger as a result of the lost cargo delivery; they have ample supplies on board for many months.
• The next two cargo deliveries to the ISS are set for June (SpaceX Dragon, CRS-7) and August (JAXA, HTV-5).
• The investigation into this incident is currently focusing on the third stage of the Soyuz rocket.

Map showing the location of Progress' decay position, according to USSTRATCOM, as well as the Russian Federal Space Agency (note Roscosmos appears to have misjudged re-entry by about 15 minutes early). Image Credit: Spaceflight101

Map showing the location of Progress’ decay position according to USSTRATCOM as well as the Russian Federal Space Agency (note Roscosmos appears to have misjudged re-entry by about 15 minutes early). Image Credit: Spaceflight101

The launch of Progress 59 (M-27M) went off smoothly at 07:09:50 UTC on April 28 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The unmanned Progress resupply ship was atop an upgraded Soyuz 2-1A rocket, the second ISS resupply flight to make use of the upgraded rocket (the older version, the Soyuz U, had been in service since 1973). Progress 59 was being launched on an express, four hour flight to the ISS, with a fallback two day rendezvous option.

Eight minutes, 48 seconds after launch with Progress reaching its preliminary orbit, it separated from the third stage of the Soyuz rocket. It is now believed that trouble began around this time.

After separation, Progress was designed to deploy navigational antennas, collect flight telemetry, and pressurize the propulsion system manifolds. As ground controllers struggled to maintain contact with Progress, it appeared that systems were not functioning correctly on board the spacecraft.

On subsequent passes within range of ground communication stations, Russian controllers attempted to send commands to spacecraft and download data. Progress has refused commands from the ground and has been unable to provide much useful telemetry data, though it did downlink television video data successfully Tuesday morning and supply data showing that multiple telemetry sensors have failed. The fact that the command/telemetry system and the TV system uses different downlink paths has been suggested as the reason that one system is able to function while the other does not.

The downloaded TV video showed the spacecraft in a 60° per second spin, or tumble. Causes for this could be a stuck thruster, separation from the Soyuz not being clean, or possibly a system leak.

Tracking data also reported that Progress was in an orbit that is more elliptical than intended (data showed the orbit to be 193.8 by 278.6 km, versus the intended 193 by 238 km orbit). This suggests the Soyuz rocket may have slightly over-performed, though does not immediately account for the Progress’ failures. However, it has been speculated an improper shutdown of the Soyuz third stage engine prior to Progress separation may be the culprit.

More recent tracking data also indicates there is debris present in the vicinity of Progress, bolstering the possibility that the Progress/Soyuz separation was botched. It is unknown though whether the debris is from Progress or the third stage of the Soyuz rocket body.


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Despite the best efforts of mission controllers in Moscow and Houston, they were unable to salvage Progress 59 and the craft re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere uncontrolled on May 8, 2015 at 2:20 a.m. UTC, plus or minus one minute according to US military tracking. Based on this time frame, the re-entry took place off the west coast of southern Chile.

If the re-entry took place at the earliest part of the window (2:19 a.m.), Progress would have been 1,300 km off the coast. If decay occurred at the end of the window (2:21 a.m.) Progress would have been 350 km west of Chile.

Even though re-entry was uncontrolled, there was little danger to anyone on the ground. The Progress vehicles are designed to be disposable and burn up upon re-entry. Still, it is possible that some of the heavy and dense parts of the spacecraft could have survived – namely the docking ring and propellant tanks. Any debris that did survive re-entry could be scattered from several hundred kilometers off the west coast of Chile to severl hundred kilometers off the east coast – nearly to the Falkland Islands. This area also includes land in southern South America.

At this time, there are no reports of anyone witnessing the fiery re-entry or finding any debris on land. It’s very unlikely that any debris that landed in water would be found.


A pass of Progress 59 captured from the ground in Buenos Aires a couple hours prior to re-entry.

It is also important to note that the six crew currently on board the ISS are in no danger. The crew has ample supplies on board the station to survive productively for many months. However it should be expected that the cargo manifests for two upcoming ISS cargo flights will be adjusted to make up for higher priority cargo lost on this flight.

The next scheduled cargo flight to the ISS is a SpaceX Dragon capsule. It’s currently scheduled to launch on June 19, 2015 from Florida on mission CRS-7. Following CRS-7, a Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) HTV cargo ship is set to launch in August on mission HTV-5. There is also presently a Dragon docked with the ISS as mission CRS-6; it will depart the station and land back on Earth in mid-May.

Of concern for future flights, including manned launches, is the commonality between the Progress launch vehicle and the rocket used to launch Soyuz TMA capsules – which carry crew to the ISS. If there has been a problem with the common Soyuz upper stages, that problem would have to be addressed prior to use on future missions. Problems with the Soyuz third stage are currently being investigated as the cause of the Progress 59 failure.


Skip ahead to 10:50 mark for launch.

Read more on Spaceflight 101

How to: film canister rocket launch

8 Mar

Put this into the category of ‘fun things to do in the kitchen’ (while wearing proper eye protection).

The yard might be a better place for this one though, so you don’t put any film canister dents into your ceiling. When it takes off, it does have quite a pop (but equally it is pretty light).

What you need:

– 1/2 an Alka Seltzer tablet (aka sodium bicarbonate)
– 1 film canister
– 15mL of water
– wear eye protection

What you do:

– Put 15mL of water into the film canister (fill it about 1/2 way)
– Drop in the 1/2 Alka Seltzer into the water
– Put the lid on tight and give it a quick shake
– Put the canister down, upside down

Within a few seconds, the Alka Seltzer will partially dissolve. As it does this, it will give off some CO2 gas. As the pressure mounts, the film canister will get to a point where the lid can no longer contain the amount of gas inside.

When this happens, the lid pops off to release the pressure.

Liftoff!

Liftoff!

Thanks to Mr. Newton, we understand that when the pressure is released in a downward direction, the equal and opposite force reaction occurs, propelling the film canister up.

And in this particular example, I calculated the launch speed is 5.8m/s.

How I calculated this: the GoPro was shooting at 60fps, so each frame = 0.017 seconds. Looking at the footage, the canister moved about 10cm in a single frame. Using V=d/t, moving 10cm in 0.017s works out to 588cm/s or 5.8m/s.

Simple as that.

Modifications to try:

– Change the ratio of Alka Seltzer and water.
– Use vinegar & baking soda instead of sodium bicarbonate & water.
– If your camera doesn’t shoot at 60fps, just divide 1 by however many frames it shoots per second (e.g. if it films at 24fps, each frame is 0.04 seconds: 1/24=0.04).

Of course this little rocket doesn’t entirely do justice to how real rockets launch, in terms of fuel, ignition process, etc. – but it does provide a great little demo of Newton’s third law (with a little of the second law mixed in for good measure).

Jesse and I did this one on TV last week in the second half of our weekly Beyond The Sun space segment on Sun News Network, talking about a couple real-life rocket launches:

SpaceX launches SES-8

4 Dec

The third time proved to be the charm for SpaceX.

The company successfully launched a commercial communications satellite into orbit on Tuesday evening.

Attempts to the launch the satellite last week were twice met with technical glitches.

Lifting off at 5:41 p.m. EST on Tuesday, December 3 the 22-story tall Falcon 9 rocket carried the 3,175 kg SES-8 satellite into an elliptical orbit that reaches 80,000 km – one quarter of the distance to the Moon.

Tuesday’s launch was from Cape Canaveral, Florida and was the seventh flight of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket – all successful.

The SES-8 satellite is owned by Luxembourg-based SES S.A., which currently operates a fleet of 54 satellites.

In the coming days SES-8 will maneuver itself into a circular, geo-synchronous orbit above Asia at an altitude of 36,000 km.

From there the satellite will be able to provide television, broadband and other communications services to customers in India, China, Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia.

The delivery of the SES-8 satellite “confirms the upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle delivers to the industry’s highest performance standards,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in a statement after the launch.

SpaceX proving its ability to launch commercial satellites is a significant step in a lucrative industry.

This article by Harrison Ruess was originally posed on Sun News Network.

Time-lapse of SpaceX's Falcon 9 SES-8 launch

Time-lapse of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 SES-8 launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 carries the SES-8 satellite into geo-synchronous orbit

The SpaceX Falcon 9 carries the SES-8 satellite into geo-synchronous orbit

Yutu is on it’s way to the Moon!

2 Dec
Liftoff

Liftoff

In a spectacular launch reminiscent of the Apollo-era missions, China successfully launched a robotic mission to the Moon.

On Sunday at 12:30pm EST (1:30am December 2, Beijing time) China’s space agency launched a modified Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan province. Atop this rocket sat the Chang’e 3 lunar lander and a rover named ‘Yutu’ – which means Jade Rabbit, the pet rabbit of the Moon goddess Chang’e.

When the lander touches down in mid-December it will be the first soft landing on the Moon since the Soviet probe Luna 24 touched down on the lunar surface 37 years ago.

A live English-language webcast allowed viewers around the world to follow the launch. The broadcast was provided by China’s state-run television network CCTV.

The three-stage Long March 3B rocket was 55m (185 feet) tall when it launched, or about the height of a 15-story building.

Following separation from the rocket, Chang’e 3 successfully deployed its landing legs and solar panels.

On December 6, Chang’e 3 will fire its engines to enter lunar orbit. This will set up a December 14 landing.

Coincidentally, December 14 is the last day a human was on the moon. This was during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

The Yutu rover is powered primarily by solar panels; however it also has a small nuclear power source to provide heat to its instruments during the Moon’s nights – when the temperature drops to a chilling minus 170° Celsius.

Yutu is 1.5 meters tall and weighs approximately 120 kilograms.

Chang’e 3 is China’s third mission to the Moon. Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2 were both lunar orbiting missions. They launched in 2007 and 2010 respectively.

This article by Harrison Ruess was originally posted on the Sun News Network

China's Long March 3B rocket launches from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan province at 1:30am Beijing time on December 2, 2013. Atop this rocket sits the robotic Chang'e 3 Moon lander and Yutu rover.

China’s Long March 3B rocket launches from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan province at 1:30am Beijing time on December 2, 2013. Atop this rocket sits the robotic Chang’e 3 Moon lander and Yutu rover.

China's Long March 3B rocket successful separates its second and third stages.

China’s Long March 3B rocket successful separates its second and third stages.

China's Chang'e 3 is seen moments after successfully separating from its launch rocket on December 2, 2013 Beijing time. The robotic Chang'e 3 mission is on route to a December 14 landing on the Moon.

China’s Chang’e 3 is seen moments after successfully separating from its launch rocket on December 2, 2013 Beijing time. The robotic Chang’e 3 mission is on route to a December 14 landing on the Moon.