Friday, September 23, 2011

Georgia's Rock Ranch and NASA celebrate fifty years of spaceflight

(MACON, Ga.) -- America's space program has landed in the heart of Georgia in a corn field located on a cattle ranch.

Autumn's arrival across Georgia brings with it a season for pumpkins, harvests and a huge NASA-styled corn maze located in the heart of the Peach State.

The Rock Ranch, located northwest of Macon, is a member of the nationwide program Space Farm 7, and the home to a NASA sponsored corn maze depicting a huge astronaut and the NASA logo in honor of fifty years of space exploration.

Space Farm 7 are seven ranches selected by the space agency across America to help promote the science of agriculture for children.

“In 1969, I sat with my family glued to a television watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon for the first time,” the ranch's General Manager Jeff Manley said. “So, now that we have the opportunity to commemorate with NASA their decades of successes, it is truly an honor.”

Several space educational displays stand near the maze on loan from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The 1,250 acre Rock Ranch, owned by Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, is a working cattle ranch created to help teach children and adults the sciences of agriculture and farming.

NASA is helping to promote the growing of crops not only on earth but in space for future long duration trips to an asteroid or Mars.

Manley adds The Rock Ranch's partnership with NASA allows the ranch to present a rich educational moment for children unable to visit the several space centers across America.

Festivities surrounding the astronomical corn maze begins on September 24, and run every Saturday thru November 13, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Children and adults can also take a train Ride and a hay rides; visit a petting zoo, speed down a zip line or take a pony ride. The famous Pumpkin Cannon is another ballistic highlight of the day.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the entrance.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NASA science satellite to plunge back to earth Friday

ATLANTA, Ga. -- A NASA science satellite will plunge back to earth on Friday raining over twenty pieces of debris over an unknown region of our planet.

NASA said on Thursday the satellite will not fall toward North America due to it's orbital track.

The satellite known as UARS for Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is expected to re-enter the earth's atmosphere on Friday afternoon EDT, and moments later, NASA states sections of the spacecraft will crash to the planet.

"The satellite will not be passing over North America during that time period," NASA's Brian Dunbar stated on Thursday. "It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any more certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 24 hours."

NASA and astronomers world wide will be following the craft's decent on Friday.

One leading astronomer at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia has been following UARS's return for several weeks.

"UARS is a satellite which has accomplished it's scientific mission," Tellus' astronomy program manager David Dundee said. "It's a piece of space history."

The spacecraft was launched from the Kennedy Space Center aboard the space shuttle Discovery in September 1991, to begin a multi year mission to study earth's ever changing atmosphere.

In 2005, NASA scientists began to fire the spacecraft's thrusters to begin it's slow decent back to earth.

"Once you get to 100 miles up, the craft will begin to encounter different density's of the upper atmosphere which will begin to cause it to fall more rapidly," Mr. Dundee explained.

UARS was circling earth in a 115 by 120 mile high orbit as of Thursday, making one complete revolution every 89 minutes.

Dundee estimates between 24 to 36 pieces will make it to the ground, with around six of those weighing between 200 to 300 pounds.

A high resolution NASA camera located a top Tellus records in bound objects, as many as eight a night, and was ready to track the seven ton UARS had the craft's orbital track brought it over the southeastern United States.

Dundee expects pieces of the spacecraft to tumble into an ocean.
NASA stated today that there has not been any recorded injury to a human from a falling spacecraft to date.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Labor strike delays today's Ariane 5 launch

A labor strike has delayed Today's launch of an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, South America, and Arianespace cannot confirm a possible new launch date.

Countdown clocks stopped around 11:00 a.m. EDT today, nearly two hours before the loading of super cold fuels into the rocket's main stage.

"The Trade Union of French Guiana Workers has just started a strike action within the Telespazio company," Arianespace announced today. "This action will make unavailable means of measurement in the Space Center which are absolutely necessary for (Ariane's) launch planned for Tuesday."

A delay of several days is expected following a teleconference by this aerospace reporter.

Once launched, the Ariane rocket will deliver two communications satellites into geostationary orbit, one for Arabsat and a second for SES North America.

The French Space Agency and Arianespace are working today to have the strikers and Telespazio management return to the bargaining table to end the walkoff.

Based in Rome, Italy, Telespazio handle's the space systems division of Ariane, including the rocket's prelaunch processing.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Arianespace moves toward Ariane 5 and Soyuz 2 launches

Europe's heavy lift launcher will make it's final flight of the year from French Guiana on Tuesday as the launch team steers toward flying two Russian Soyuz rockets from the jungles of South America before the New Year.

Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket will deliver two communications satellites into geostationary orbit, one for Arabsat and a second for SES North America.

This launch will mark the sixtieth Ariane 5 launch, and the fifth and last of 2011.

The heavy lifter is riding on a string on forty-five consecutive successful launches and Arianespace's Chariman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall commented days ago on an August 31 decision to delay this flight three days to make additional inspections on the rocket's upper stage engine.

"We do not tolerate any defect on our launchers," Le Gall said. "There was no hesitation on our part in delaying this upcoming flight to ensure the highest level of quality for a successful mission.”

Arianespace expressed concern "by (recent) mission failures of other vehicles" in the launch community.

Russia's Soyuz U rocket was lost en route to delivering cargo to the space station in August, and the country lost contact with their Proton-M upper stage and it's payload during a launch a week earlier.

Even China suffered a setback on August 18 as it's Long March 2C was lost due to an issue with it's second stage engine as it carried a satellite toward orbit.

The Ariane launch team will begin loading the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuels into the main stage for use by it's core engine at 12:48 p.m. EDT, on launch day.

Launch of Ariane 5 is set for Tuesday at 5:38:07 p.m. EDT (9:38 p.m. GMT) -- the opening of an eighty-four minute launch window -- from launch complex ELA-3 at Kourou, French Guiana.

Twin solid rocket boosters will ignite lift-off combined with a Vulcain 2 core liquid fueled main engine to send the white rocket eastward out over the central Atlantic waters.

As the 165-foot tall Ariane travels higher and faster, the boosters will exhaust it's propellant a little over two minutes after launch and separate as the rocket soars 43 miles high.

Meanwhile, the main engine burns for nine minutes.

One critical milestone will happen three minutes into the launch phase as the rocket's protective payload fairing is jettisoned as it moves into the upper atmosphere.

Just over nine minutes after launch, the engine will shutdown at an altitude of 116 miles, and the first stage will then separate seconds later. The second stage's HM-7B engine will then fire up for the next few minutes.

The first payload to be deployed will be that of Arabsat 5C which will ride to orbit on the top of the two satellite stack.

Built by Thales Alenia Space and Europe’s EADS Astrium, the Arabsat 5C will be used for both private and government communications using both Ka-Band and C-band range.

Thales Alenia Space designed and constructed nearly fifty percent of the International Space Station's living area for the crew; and, the European Automated Transfer Vehicles which delivered supplies to the outpost from Kourou.

The satellite is intended to operate for nearly 15 years from a position of 20 degrees East providing communications from north Africa and the Middle East region.

Arabsat 5C will separate from the upper stage at 6:05 pm, based on an on time launch, from an altitude of 605 miles.

Ariane's second payload, the Orbital Sciences built SES-2 will support both high definition television and communications for North America and the Caribbean over a planned 15 years.

SES-2 will separate and fly free at 6:14 p.m. from an altitude of 1,725 miles.

Once on orbit 22,300 miles above a position at 82 degrees East over the equator, the nearly 78-foot long satellite will undergo a few weeks of testing before becoming operational.

Once Ariane has successfully completed it's mission, Arianespace will begin preparing for the inaugural launch of a Soyuz rocket from Kourou.

The Soyuz launch complex is located seven miles northwest of the Ariane complex, and is mostly based on the configuration of Russia's Soyuz launch pad in Kazakhstan.

The first launch of the Soyuz 2 is planned for just after sunrise on October 20, with a pair of European Galileo navigation satellites.

Arianespace then hopes to get a second Soyuz off the ground before 2011 concludes.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)
copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.