In Florida on Sunday, a rocket and capsule built by SpaceX will carry crew members to the International Space Station. The NASA mission follows on a successful demonstration of the same spacecraft that launched in May and returned two astronauts to Earth in August. Here’s what you need to know about the launch.
What is SpaceX launching?
Four astronauts — three from NASA, one from JAXA, the Japanese space agency — will be sitting inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, boosted to orbit on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission is known as Crew-1, and the astronauts named their capsule Resilience. They are headed to the International Space Station for a six-month stay.
This is the first of what NASA calls “operational” flights of the Crew Dragon. In May, there was a demonstration mission, with two NASA astronauts — Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley — aboard. That launch, in a capsule named Endeavour, was the first time that a crewed mission had lifted off from the United States to orbit since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttles in 2011. Its return was also the first water landing by astronauts aboard an American spacecraft since the Apollo capsules stopped flying in the 1970s.
NASA has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets to get its astronauts to the space station. That has become increasingly expensive, rising to a cost of more than $90 million a seat.
When is the launch?
The Crew-1 mission is scheduled to launch on Sunday at 7:27 p.m. Eastern time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA Television will broadcast coverage beginning at 3:15 p.m.
The astronauts will arrive at the space station at about 11 p.m. Eastern on Monday, a journey of approximately 27 hours.
Forecasts currently give a 50 percent chance of favorable conditions at the launchpad. SpaceX and NASA are also keeping watch farther out in the Atlantic Ocean. The weather and waters there need to be fairly calm in case something goes wrong during the ascent to orbit and the Crew Dragon needs to make an emergency splashdown (adverse weather conditions led to a postponement of the earlier Saturday launch date).
If Sunday’s launch is delayed, there is a backup opportunity on Wednesday.
Who are the astronauts?
Michael S. Hopkins, 51, a colonel in the United States Space Force, is the commander for the flight. (Colonel Hopkins is also the first member of the newly created U.S. Space Force to go to space.) He was one of nine astronauts selected by NASA in 2009. He has made one previous trip to the International Space Station, in 2013 and 2014, spending 166 days in orbit.
Shannon Walker, 55, has had one previous stint on the space station, in 2010. Dr. Walker has a doctoral degree in space physics from Rice University, where she studied how the solar wind interacted with the atmosphere of Venus.
Soichi Noguchi, 55, an astronaut with JAXA, the Japanese space agency, will be making his third trip to space. He was a member of the crew of the space shuttle Discovery in 2005 on the first shuttle launch after the loss of Columbia and its seven astronauts more than two years earlier.
During that visit to the International Space Station, Mr. Noguchi made three spacewalks. That included one to test techniques developed to repair damage to the heat tiles on the shuttle similar to what had doomed Columbia when it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. In 2009 and 2010, he spent five months in orbit as a member of the space station crew.
Victor Glover, 44, selected by NASA in 2013 to be an astronaut, will be making his first spaceflight. He will be the first Black NASA astronaut to serve aboard a space station crew. Mr. Glover’s achievement is notable for NASA, which has worked to spotlight the “hidden figures” in its history but has so far sent only 14 Black Americans to space out of a total of more than 300 NASA astronauts.
He will not be the first Black astronaut aboard the station. But those who proceeded him from NASA were members of space shuttle crews during the station’s construction and only completed brief stays on the outpost.
Allyson Waller contributed reporting.
NASA, Boeing Starliner mission to ISS delayed again, launch uncertain – CNET
Boeing is hoping to launch its Starliner crew capsule for a second time in an attempt to dock with the International Space Station. Boeing’s to reach the correct orbit but gave it valuable data. The company seemed ready to try again, but its launch attempt was scrubbed Tuesday — the second delay in less than a week.
Engineers “detected unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system” during a health check of the spacecraft after Monday’s electrical storms in the region, Boeing said Tuesday. It’s uncertain if the storms were responsible for the technical issue.
The company and NASA considered Wednesday as a possible target for a new launch time, but the valve issue continues to haunt the mission. “Engineering teams have ruled out a number of potential causes, including software, but additional time is needed to complete the assessment,” NASA said Tuesday night. There is no new launch date at this time.
The mission was originally scheduled to take off Friday, but that was delayed due to anfiring its thrusters shortly after docking with the station. That knocked the space station around and forced teams to evaluate the station’s status.
“The International Space Station team will use the time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos Nauka multipurpose laboratory module (MLM) and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival,” NASA said in a July 29 statement.
NASA will livestream the launch when it eventually happens.
When Starliner does finally launch, it will lift off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The capsule will be packed with around 400 pounds of crew supplies and cargo. If all goes well, it’ll dock with the space station about 24 hours later. Docking will also be covered live by NASA TV.
Software defects and a communications link problem led to a premature end to the original Boeing test flight in 2019, though the CST-100 Starliner capsule landed safely back on Earth. The upcoming Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission is a chance for Boeing to thoroughly vet its hardware and software before a crew of three American astronauts would fly on Starliner.
Both Boeing and SpaceX are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is all about sending astronauts to the ISS from American soil. SpaceX has now delivered 10 astronauts to the ISS, and Boeing would like to catch up. But first, it’ll need to show that its Starliner can safely reach the ISS and return to Earth.
Starliner will spend between five and 10 days at the ISS before bringing research samples back to Earth. Boeing will aim to bring the spacecraft back for a parachute landing in the desert of New Mexico.
“OFT-2 will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station,” NASA said in a statement July 22 after concluding a flight readiness review.
The mission is a key step for NASA’s plans to run regular crewed launches from the US, ending its reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Boeing is also looking ahead at its first crewed mission, Boe-CFT, which it had been hoping to launch within the next six months. The delays with OFT-2 could mean a longer wait before people fly on Starliner.
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Impact of space station spin requires study, official says – CTV News
Space engineers will analyze whether a glitch that caused the International Space Station to spin out of its normal orientation could have impacted any of its systems, a Russian space official said Wednesday.
Sergei Krikalev, the director of crewed space programs at the Russian space corporation Roscosmos, emphasized that last week’s incident did not inflict any observable damage to the space station but he said that experts would need to study its potential implications.
“It appears there is no damage,” Krikalev said in an interview broadcast by Russian state television. “But it’s up to specialists to assess how we have stressed the station and what the consequences are.”
NASA emphasized Wednesday that the station was operating normally and noted that the spin was within safety limits for its systems.
Thrusters on Russia’s Nauka laboratory module fired shortly after the module arrived at the International Space Station on Thursday, making the orbiting outpost slowly spin about one-and-a-half revolutions. Russia’s mission controllers fired thrusters on another Russian module and a Russian cargo ship attached to the space station to stop rotation and then push the station back to its normal position.
Both U.S. and Russian space officials said the station’s seven-person crew wasn’t in danger during the incident.
The station needs to be properly aligned to get the maximum power from solar panels and to maintain communications with space support teams back on Earth. The space station’s communications with ground controllers blipped out twice for a few minutes on Thursday.
NASA said in a tweet Tuesday that the station was 45 degrees out of alignment when Nauka’s thrusters were still firing and the loss of control was discussed with the crew. “Further analysis showed total attitude change before regaining normal attitude control was (tilde)540 degrees,” NASA said.
On Wednesday, NASA noted that “continued analysis following last week’s event with unplanned thruster firings on Nauka has shown the space station remains in good shape with systems performing normally.”
“Most importantly, the maximum rate and acceleration of the attitude change did not approach safety limits for station systems and normal operations resumed once attitude control was regained,” it said.
Roscosmos’ Krikalev, a veteran of six space missions who spent a total of 803 days in orbit, noted Wednesday that firing orientation engines created a dynamic load on the station’s components, making a thorough analysis of whether some of them could be overstressed necessary.
“The station is a rather delicate structure, and both the Russian and the U.S. segments are built as light as possible,” he said. “An additional load stresses the drivers of solar batteries and the frames they are mounted on. Specialists will analyze the consequences. It is too early to talk about how serious it was, but it was an unforeseen situation that requires a detailed study.”
Krikalev said Nauka’s engines fired because a glitch in the control system mistakenly assumed that the lab module hadn’t yet docked at the station and activated the thrusters to pull it away.
The launch of the 22-ton (20-metric-ton) module has been repeatedly delayed by technical problems. It was initially scheduled to go up in 2007, but funding problems pushed the launch back, and in 2013 experts found contamination in its fuel system, resulting in a long and costly replacement. Other Nauka systems also underwent modernization or repairs.
Nauka is the first new compartment for the Russian segment of the International Space Station since 2010, offering more space for scientific experiments and room for the crew. Russian crew members will have to conduct up to 11 spacewalks beginning in early September to prepare it for operation.
The space station is currently operated by NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur; Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
In 1998, Russia launched the station’s first compartment, Zarya, which was followed in 2000 by another big piece, Zvezda, and three smaller modules in the following years. The last of them, Rassvet, arrived at the station in 2010.
Perseid Shower season | 96.1 Renfrew Today – renfrewtoday.ca
If you’ve been looking to the night skies on clear occasions of late, you may have been seeing quite the show.
Backyard Astronomer Gary Boyle says it’s Perseid (Per-say-id) Meteor Shower Season.
The natural phenomenon began July 14th, and is on-going.
Boyle says two nights next week (this week) will provide optimal viewing opportunities.
The event is great for the naked eye, but it’s an impossible challenge for cellphones- you’ll need a 35mm camera, and best, one with a time-lapse feature.
The Backyard Astronomer says that this year, the crescent moon sets within a couple of hours after sunset leaving us with a dark sky.
By contrast, next year’s Perseids takes place under a full moon, drastically reducing the hourly rate.
The Perseid Meteor Shower activity comes to an end August 24th.
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