Category Archives: Space

29 Mar

Two cool videos of STS-123 Night Launch

I found two very cool videos (YouTube) of STS-123 night launch. Night launches are the coolest, with literally night becoming day.

The two videos are from different point of views and distances of/from the launch pad. The cracking sound from the solid rocket boosters (and main engines) is one of the cool things to experience; but just imagine that loud sound (and vibrations) but x10 as loud passing through your body — that is how I felt when I saw the STS-60 launch from less than 3 miles away. The first video is great, as you can listen the reaction of the people watching the launch. The second video is just 2.5 miles away from the launch pad (must have been taken by a NASA employee to be that close).

(Added on Mar 31 2008) This video shows the power of the space shuttle at liftoff. It was taken with a remote camera at close range (people are not allowed that close to the launch pad during liftoff).

ceo

25 Mar

Space Shuttle and Station Sighting Opportunities for March 2008

By coincidence today I saw the Space Shuttle and Station flying just over, at 12 o’clock. I immediately recognized then as potentially the Shuttle and Station; because of the inclination, they were as bright as I can remember seeing them, for a long time. Back to back flying over, close together. What an awesome sight. After they were gone, I went inside the house and hit the NASA page for sighting opportunities. Yes, I was right.

There is another sighting opportunity tomorrow. Check it out. Below is the sighting opportunities for Austin:

THE FOLLOWING ISS SIGHTINGS ARE POSSIBLE FROM TUE MAR 25 TO SUN APR 06

SATELLITE
LOCAL
DURATION
MAX ELEV
APPROACH
DEPARTURE
DATE/TIME
(MIN)
(DEG)
(DEG-DIR)
(DEG-DIR)
ISS
Tue Mar 25/08:33 PM
5
65
12 above SW 12 above NE
ISS
Wed Mar 26/08:57 PM
2
25
25 above NW 11 above NNE
ISS
Fri Mar 28/08:08 PM
2
23
23 above N 10 above NNE

ONLY DAYS WITH SIGHTING OPPORTUNITIES ARE LISTED

THE FOLLOWING ATV SIGHTINGS ARE POSSIBLE FROM MON MAR 24 TO MON MAR 31
SATELLITE
LOCAL
DURATION
MAX ELEV
APPROACH
DEPARTURE
DATE/TIME
(MIN)
(DEG)
(DEG-DIR)
(DEG-DIR)
ATV
Mon Mar 24/08:08 PM
2
12
10 above SSE 10 above E
ATV
Mon Mar 24/09:41 PM
1
17
10 above WSW 17 above W
ATV
Tue Mar 25/08:28 PM
5
55
11 above SSW 12 above NE
ATV
Wed Mar 26/08:53 PM
3
28
28 above NW 10 above NNE
ATV
Fri Mar 28/08:09 PM
2
24
24 above NW 10 above NNE

ONLY DAYS WITH SIGHTING OPPORTUNITIES ARE LISTED

THE FOLLOWING SHUTTLE SIGHTINGS ARE POSSIBLE FROM TUE MAR 25 TO SAT MAR 29
SATELLITE
LOCAL
DURATION
MAX ELEV
APPROACH
DEPARTURE
DATE/TIME
(MIN)
(DEG)
(DEG-DIR)
(DEG-DIR)
SHUTTLE
Tue Mar 25/08:33 PM
5
67
10 above SW 12 above NE
SHUTTLE
Wed Mar 26/08:59 PM
2
24
24 above NW 11 above NNE
SHUTTLE
Fri Mar 28/08:10 PM
2
24
24 above NW 11 above NNE

ceo

20 Mar

The iPods rock the Space Shuttle, and single-bit soft errors

I found this article about an iPod that was spotted on the Space Shuttle…

I wonder if the iPod is experiencing single-bit soft errors. In space, unless the electronic equipment such as computers (or iPods!) is “radiation hardened”, using techniques such as single bit correction Error Correcting Codes (ECC), single-bit soft errors can and will occur by radiation from space. Computers are highly susceptible to bit-flips when the spacecraft carrying them is flying over the magnetic poles, and obviously if there is a solar flare.

I remember many years ago I spent long hours (of pure pressure during a Shuttle mission) trying to explain a fail-to-sync (FTS) that occurred in orbit; a FTS is when one of the computers in a redundant-set diverge, taking a different execution path from the other ones; a very bad thing in redundant systems, especially during launch or landing, but not as bad in orbit, unless during rendezvous. Based on downlink data, I attributed the FTS to a single bit-flip. Was my assessment 100% correct? We will never know. But it was the best educated guess I could come up with (after lots of data analysis)… Note that FTS are very rare, and the Shuttle software is extremely stable and next to error free.

This I found interesting:

Getting an iPod into space isn’t easy. The lithium batteries have to be replaced with specially certified alkaline batteries. Once docked, crew members can’t bring them on board the Space Station, however, since they haven’t been certified as safe in that environment.

Related to this see On Self-Modifying Code and the Space Shuttle OS.

ceo

14 Mar

This week on Space: STS-123 launches, Cassini meets Enceladus, new Google Sky

An interesting week on space-related activities…

STS-123

The Space Shuttle STS-123 mission launched into its 16 day mission; and busy is the crew delivering pieces for the International Space Station (ISS). This is the the 25th shuttle mission to the ISS. It is pretty cool to see back to back missions. STS-123 launched at night, which is an spectacular sight (night becomes day for a minute or so):

Shuttle Up

STS 123 night launch

The next two videos are from different point of views and distances of/from the launch. The cracking sound from the solid rocket boosters (and main engines) is one of the cool things to experience; but just imagine that loud sound but x10 passing through your body. The first video is just 2.5 miles away from the launch pad (must have been taken by a NASA employee to be that close). The second video is great, as you can listen the reaction of the people watching the launch.

Cassini in Saturn

The spacecraft continues its voyage of discovery in the outer planets. Cassini survives Enceladus very close flyby through icy water geyser-like jets.

Enceladus

Google Sky goes Browser

Google Sky Logo

Google Sky is now available browser-based. Very cool. Read the announcement at the Google Lat Long blog.

ceo

30 Dec

Johannes Kepler – first human being to truly understand the laws of planetary motion

Three days ago marked 436 years since the birth of Johannes Kepler. Born in Germany on December 27, 1571, Kepler was the first human being who was able to put together all the observations from others and himself, and truly see and understand, and define laws of planetary motion. For this he had to make the leap from religious faith into the pure essence of mathematics, astronomy, and science, something that on those days could get you killed. Kepler law’s were the ones that led Newton to his own discoveries and laws on motion and gravitation.

Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion:

  • Kepler’s First Law: The Law of Ellipses: The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the sun at one of the foci. An ellipse is characterized by its two focal points; see illustration. Thus, Kepler rejected the ancient Aristotelean and Ptolemaic and Copernican belief in circular motion.
  • Kepler’s Second Law: The Equal-Areas Law: A line joining a planet and the sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time as the planet travels along its orbit. This means that the planet travels faster while close to the sun and slows down when it is farther from the sun. With his law, Kepler destroyed the Aristotelean astronomical theory that planets have uniform velocity.
  • Kepler’s Third Law: The Harmonic Law: The squares of the orbital periods of planets are directly proportional to the cubes of the semi-major axes (the “half-length” of the ellipse) of their orbits. This means not only that larger orbits have longer periods, but also that the speed of a planet in a larger orbit is lower than in a smaller orbit.

ceo

[References and sources: NASA and Wikipedia]

15 Nov

Watching the Earth-rise and set over the Moon

Wow, so gorgeous, check it out…

Japan’s space agency (JAXA) has released two high definition videos of Earth-rise and Earth-set, as witnessed by its lunar explorer SELENE, which is now orbiting our largest natural satellite.

See the videos (note, downloading is slow):

ceo

[Via The Register]

21 Oct

The New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission

New Horizons

I’m not sure that many folks know about the New Horizons probe, which is in route to the Pluto-Kuiper Belt, in the outer solar system (this is beyond the orbit of planet Neptune).

The New Horizons spacecraft was launched in January of 2006, got a gravity assist with a fly-by of Jupiter early this year (2007), and it is on its way to the outer regions/edge of the solar system, arriving, if all goes well, in the year 2016.

During the fly-by of Jupiter earlier this year, the probe took some gorgeous photos of Jupiter and its moon Io — see Pluto-Bound New Horizons Sees Changes in Jupiter System.

At the time of this writing the mission elapsed time is 639 days, with 2,729 days to go. Note that by then the Constellation program should be in full swing towards the Moon (I can’t wait to see again humans returning to the Moon).

See the gorgeous photo of Jupiter and its moon Io erupting taken by the New Horizons probe:


Click to enlarge.

About the Image: This is a montage of New Horizons images of Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io, taken during the spacecraft’s Jupiter flyby in early 2007. The Jupiter image is an infrared color composite taken by the spacecraft’s near-infrared imaging spectrometer, the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) at 1:40 UT on Feb. 28, 2007. The infrared wavelengths used (red: 1.59 µm, green: 1.94 µm, blue: 1.85 µm) highlight variations in the altitude of the Jovian cloud tops, with blue denoting high-altitude clouds and hazes, and red indicating deeper clouds. The prominent bluish-white oval is the Great Red Spot. The observation was made at a solar phase angle of 75 degrees but has been projected onto a crescent to remove distortion caused by Jupiter’s rotation during the scan. The Io image, taken at 00:25 UT on March 1st 2007, is an approximately true-color composite taken by the panchromatic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), with color information provided by the 0.5 µm (“blue”) and 0.9 µm (“methane”) channels of the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image shows a major eruption in progress on Io’s night side, at the northern volcano Tvashtar. Incandescent lava glows red beneath a 330-kilometer high volcanic plume, whose uppermost portions are illuminated by sunlight. The plume appears blue due to scattering of light by small particles in the plume. This montage appears on the cover of the Oct. 12, 2007 issue of Science magazine. Credit: NASA/JHU/APL.

ceo

15 Sep

Google Lunar X Prize

Google Lunar X Prize

Google is funding the Lunar X Prize with $30 million, to encourage private teams to go to the moon, with $20 million to the first private enterprise to put a robot on the moon. Very nice Google!

I love the space program, and this kind of announcements makes me want to go back to it… The time for Moon 2.0 is now.

Interestingly, it seems that this X Prize lunar challenge will occur in parallel to NASA’s return to the Moon missions; see NASA manned space exploration plans for the next 20 years.

Video 1: Google Lunar X PRIZE Vision

Video 2: Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) Launch Highlights

Video Credit: The Lunar X Prize Foundation.

ceo

09 Aug

We have liftoff – Teacher in Space

I missed the launch of STS-118 yesterday due to business travel… But it is great to see the successful and historical launch of the STS-118 Space Shuttle Endeavour.

liftoff
We have liftoff! of the Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-118…

The Vehicle

Endeavor flag
Orbiter: OV-105 Endeavour at Launch Pad 39A.

The Crew

crew sts-118
From the left are mission specialists Richard A. (Rick) Mastracchio, Barbara R. Morgan, Pilot Charles O. Hobaugh, Commander Scott J. Kelly and mission specialists Tracy E. Caldwell (she is gorgeous!), Canadian Space Agency’s Dafydd R. (Dave) Williams, and Alvin Drew Jr. Credit: NASA

The Mission

Mission Number: STS-118 (119th space shuttle flight). The 22nd shuttle flight to the International Space Station.

It will continue space station construction by delivering a third starboard truss segment.

This mission is of great symbolic significance. In this mission is Astronaut Barbara R. Morgan, Mission Specialist, who originally was the backup astronaut for the NASA Teacher in Space Program to Christa McAuliffe, who was part of the Challenger crew who died during the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. Following the Challenger accident, Morgan assumed the responsibilities of Teacher in Space, but had to wait more than 20 years to fulfill the Teacher in Space mission.

The Patch

sts-118 patch

From the STS-118 Press Kit:

“The STS-118 patch represents Space Shuttle Endeavour on its mission to help complete the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS), and symbolizes the pursuit of knowledge through space exploration. The flight will accomplish its ISS 13A.1 assembly tasks through a series of spacewalks, robotic operations, logistics transfers, and the exchange of one of the three long-duration expedition crew members.

On the patch, the top of the gold astronaut symbol overlays the starboard S-5 truss segment, highlighting its installation during the mission. The flame of knowledge represents the importance of education, and honors teachers and students everywhere. The seven white stars and the red maple leaf signify the American and Canadian crew members, respectively, flying aboard Endeavour.”

Download the STS-118 Press Kit (PDF 10.3 Mb), which contains great information about the mission and the crew.

See the mission in real-time over the Web at NASA TV.

ceo

23 Jul

Galaxy Zoo – take part in a census of one million galaxies

Galaxy Zoo

What a cool project… Galaxy Zoo leverages the human collective intelligence to help classify thousands of images taken from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey:

“Astronomers are inviting members of the public to help them make major new discoveries by taking part in a census of one million galaxies.”

It is the same concept introduced by Luis von Ahn et. al. (see the video on Human Computation) for labeling images, and used in Google Images Labeler.

After taking a short 15 images training, participants help classify photos of galaxies as Spiral, Elliptical or other — it is a fun project (and it is great for children) that teaches about Astronomy, while contributing to the very hard problem of image processing and classification… what better and more accurate way to classify images than using humans themselves, and the Web…

ceo

09 Jun

Successful launch of Atlantis STS-117 Mission to the Space Station

STS117

A great, successful launch of STS-117. Awesome. I'm glad.

The first Shuttle launch of 2007. Mission STS-117, on board Atlantis, is the 21st Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station… this one is taking 7 astronauts to the station.

It has been a long time since the 1st mission related to the space station… I was working on the Shuttle program during the first rendezvous mission with MIR (1995, STS-63), in preparation to STS-71, the first docking mission with the station. Today, 12 years later, we are not done yet.

See the STS-117 Mission Overview.

Godspeed to the crew…

And while I write this, one of my coolest experiences ever come to mind — because I worked on the onboard software (the Flight Computer OS or FCOS), I had access or visibility to certain things and people, and the time I got the chance to (quietly) sit down on the back seat during one of the STS-71 crew training launch exercises inside the actual Space Shuttle flight simulator – I mean, we are talking about the closest experience to the real thing, just second to the real launch itself — 3 intense hours sitting with the astronauts while they trained — this is vertical cockpit position, countdown sequence, the engine sounds and cockpit vibration, the motion simulation, SRB separation, looking “out the cockpit windows” as the sky transitioned from blue into the blackness of “space”, and the successful and sometimes not successful, glad it was a simulation, orbital insertions, and watching the astronauts react to the events and failures as they happened (were introduced)…

For those interested in the space program, preparation and hiring for the next phase of the U.S. space program, the return to the Moon, is happening as we speak… It is very tempting…

ceo

28 Jan

January 2007 – remembering the crew of Apollo 1 and STS 51-L

A day like yesterday, 40 years ago on January 27, 1967, astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died during the Apollo 1 ground test accident.

A day like today, 21 years ago on January 28, 1986, astronauts Francis “Dick” Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Dr. Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe died during the STS 51-L mission accident onboard the Challenger during launch.

Let the dream, the vision of (human) space exploration continue…

ceo

[Image source: Wikipedia]

09 Jan

NASA manned space exploration plans for the next 20 years

It is very exciting to see NASA (trying) to go back to its roots of space and human planetary exploration. See below NASA’s plans for the next 20 years – until 2016. And it is it is about returning to the Moon, and preparing for Mars:

  • Fly the Shuttle as safely as possible until its retirement, not later than 2010.
  • Complete the International Space Station in a manner consistent with NASA’s International Partner commitments and the needs of human exploration.
  • Develop a balanced overall program of science, exploration, and aeronautics consistent with the redirection of the human spaceflight program to focus on exploration.
  • Bring a new Crew Exploration Vehicle into service as soon as possible after Shuttle retirement.
  • Encourage the pursuit of appropriate partnerships with the emerging commercial space sector.
  • Establish a lunar return program having the maximum possible utility for later missions to Mars and other destinations.


        Source: NASA 2006 Strategic Plan.

The following diagram shows NASA space exploration plans until the year 2025:

Last space shuttle flight in 2010, that is 3 years from now. That will mark the
end of an era in the U.S. space program and the start of the Return to
the Moon, with the 7th manned moon landing in the year 2019.
From the illustration, it seems that space station missions will end in the year 2016, in preparation for (focus on) lunar missions, which seems ridiculous short for the amount of time, effort, headaches, and money spent on its construction, which is yet not complete. Manned Mars expedition mission project would begin in 2020, while learning/training on the Lunar bases.

Note that the Return to the Moon program has started and is happing (planning) now. I you like the space program and have the right stuff to help put people on the Moon and beyond, now is the time to join NASA – I personally think that working on the onboard OS software, and/or flight-software for the space vehicle would be very neat.

ceo

04 Jan

BLUE ORIGIN REVEALED



Cosmic Log has published a story titled Blue Origin Revealed, where you can read and learn about Blue Origin, which is Jeff Bezos aerospace company – see pictures and a short video of their successful maiden test flight of their Goddard rocket vertical-take-off-and-landing vehicle.

It is great to see their accomplishments, especially after having met some of the folks behind it – an awesome group of people, scientists and engineers, and I was immediately convinced they had the right stuff, and would be successful: because of the people involved, and because of their do-it-right-and-safely long-term approach to this very high risk, empirical venture, from hardware to software to people to processes. It is as their motto reads “Gradatim Ferociter” which translates to “Step by Step, Courageously”.



This story, their maiden test flight, has a personal emotional effect on me. Back in 2003 I interviewed with Blue Origin, and got a job offer from them, to help develop their onboard software… but due to family circumstances at that time, I was not able to take the job and move to Seattle; this is one of those opportunities in life that I look back and kick myself… but life goes on.

Note that Blue Origin is currently looking for engineers…

Congratulations to the Blue Origin team!

ceo

[Via Weblogsky]

12 Dec

STS-116, so far so good

I have been so busy, that I totally missed the fact that the Shuttle STS-116 crew had launched last Saturday onboard Orbiter Discovery (OV-103); the first night launch in 4 years. Night launches are one of the most spectacular things to watch, and see how literally night becomes day for a couple of minutes while the bird flies up, and up…

Because it was a night launch, engineers on the ground must rely mainly on radar to track and analyze falling (ice) particles that might hit the vehicle, as (obviously) photography can't be leveraged that much during the night, except for what the bright solid rocket boosters (SRBs) and main engines can help the engineers see. But the good news is that “so far so good”, and with the new procedures put in place to visually check the vehicle and even try to fix damage tiles etc while in orbit, something that should have, and which BTW was considered and proposed by many engineers many years ago, are finally now in place:


During tonight’s Mission Status Briefing, Mission Management Team Chairman John Shannon said that engineers have completed the first review of Sunday’s inspection of the orbiter’s heat shield. “The team has looked and gone through and done their first pass on all of the wing leading-edge RCCs and the nose cap,” Shannon said, “and has identified no issues. It is a very rigorous process.”

The goal of the STS-116 mission is to continue growing/expanding the station itself, for example, this mission will install the P5 integrated truss using the shuttle’s robotic arm. See the Shuttle's website for more information on the current Space Shuttle mission.

In addition, the Shuttle mission will impact the current Space Station crew:


The Expedition 14 crew lost one member and gained another Monday night during the first crew exchange at the International Space Station during a shuttle mission in four years.

See the Station's website for more information on the current Space Station Expedition.

Congratulations and good luck to the crew of STS-116, and Expedition 14…

ceo

21 Sep

12 Astronauts in Space, Station is now Half Built

12 Astronauts in space at the same time… I think that is a new record, isn't? 6 astronauts in the Shuttle STS-115, 3 in the space station, and 3 in the Soyuz spacecraft… Lots of tense people on the ground monitoring 3 manned spacecrafts at the same time… Pretty cool.

Lots of good news… The Shuttle STS-115 crew is safe at home (see landing image gallery), and Expedition 14 has safely docked with the Space Station. Expedition 13 and 14 are in the station, and the first woman private space explorer is up there with them.

The International Space Station is now half built, and the plan is to complete construction by 2010.

Congrats to the crew of STS-115, Expedition 13, and Expedition 14, and to Anousheh Ansari.

ceo

[Image Source: NASA

Copyright © 2001-2014 C. Enrique Ortiz aka CEO