Monday, December 17, 2012

Chamblee graduate to begin five month stay in space Wednesday

ATLANTA -- A graduate from Henderson High School in Chamblee will return to the International Space Station on Wednesday to begin five months of living and working 260 miles above earth.

NASA astronaut and Henderson's class of 1978 graduate Thomas Marshburn will be making his second voyage to the orbiting outpost when he lifts-off atop a Russian rocket from the deserts of western Kazakhstan.

Two days later, he and two fellow crew members will dock their Soyuz spacecraft to a Russian module to begin their long duration stay in space.

Dr. Marshburn is only the second Henderson High student to work aboard the space station.

In 2008, Henderson's class of 1983 grad Col. Eric Boe visited the orbital complex for two weeks on a resupply mission aboard shuttle Endeavour. Boe's flight preceded Marshburn's by eight months.

Boe then returned to the outpost in 2011 as the last person to pilot shuttle Discovery as she made her final flight.

"We moved to Atlanta, my father's work called us to Atlanta, Georgia, so I was raised there near the big city," Dr. Marshburn recalled recently while at the Johnson Space Center near Houston. "We had some family property, a farm in north Georgia, spent a lot of time there fixing fences and spending a lot of time outdoors."

Monday, November 12, 2012

International crew lifts-off bound for space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- An American, Canadian and Russian departed the bitterly cold desert of western Kazakhstan today riding atop Russia's Soyuz rocket en route to the International Space Station for the holidays.

NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Canadian Space Agency's Chris Hadfield and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko lifted-off into the sunset skies over the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 7:12 a.m. EST (6:12 p.m. local time) on Wednesday, beginning a two day voyage to the orbiting outpost.

The new crew will spend five months in space, beginning with the passage of the Christmas season.

"We planned for it a long time ago," Marshburn said at a recent news conference about his thoughts on Christmas morning. "I have a ten year old daughter, and that'll be tough thinking about her waking up in the morning and enjoying things. It'll be a bit tough for me, but I think the price is certainly well worth it to be up here."

For Hadfield, whose children live in different parts of the world, he was fortunate to met up with his wife and children near the bitterly cold launch site a few days before his flight.

"We (got) together for Christmas in Kazakhstan," the musician-astronaut said with a gleeful smile. "Makes a nice card, 'Christmas in Kazakhstan'."

As the countdown reached zero, so did the outside temperature (°F), and fuel and support arms quickly retracted away from the 151-foot tall rocket. The Soyuz FG's four liquid fueled boosters and core main engine ignited on time launching the international crew of three upward into the night sky.

At the same time, the crew's port-of-call soared high over the eastern Atlantic Ocean near Africa's coastline.

Two minutes into the rocket's climb to orbit, the boosters emptied their fuel and were jettisoned. Seven minutes later, the crew arrived in low earth orbit and began deploying the craft's twin solar arrays.

After completing 34 orbits of the earth, the Soyuz TMA-07M will make a slow approach to the station and dock to the Russian Rassvet module on Friday. Docking time is planned for 9:10 a.m.

Two hours following docking, the newly arriving crew will then float into the orbiting lab to join three veteran crew members. 

Station commander and NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin have been living aboard the outpost since October 25.

Hadfield, a veteran of two space shuttle flights to two different space stations, will become the first Canadian to command the International Space Station beginning in March.

The 53-year-old has included special foods and mementos from his native Canada to enjoy during his five-month voyage 260 miles above earth.

Maple syrup, jerky and chocolate traveled into space tucked in the astronaut's personal bag, Hadfield revealed last week.

Hadfield, the only Canadian to walk in space, will also mark a first in February with the first song to premiere in space, I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing), a duet with musician Ed Robertson.

NASA's Marshburn will also be making his second trip to the station having spent two weeks aboard in 2009.

Born in Statesville, North Carolina, his family moved to Atlanta a few years later graduating from Henderson High School in 1978.

Dr. Marshburn, M.D. became an astronaut in 2006, and was a member of shuttle Endeavour's crew which delivered the Japanese module to the space station. He also performed three spacewalks to assist in the new module's installation.

And, although there are no spacewalks planned during his stay, Marshburn said he "would love to" perform one if necessary.

Cosmonaut Romanenko was serving as flight engineer during Marshburn's brief stay in summer of 2009. A major in the Russian Air Force, Romanenko logged 188 days in space as part of the expedition 20 and 21 crews that year.

The space trio will live and work aboard the space station until May 2013.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science and technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @spaceflight360.)


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Commercial cargo craft Dragon departs space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The first operational commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station was released back on it's own on Sunday after delivering fresh supplies and hardware to a crew of six.

Built and operated by Space Exploration Technologies Inc. or SpaceX, the Dragon cargo craft was launched from Cape Canaveral on October 7 with nearly 880 pounds of supplies for the station's crew.

During the craft's nearly three weeks docked with the orbiting complex, astronauts unloaded the new supplies and then loaded 1,673 pounds of cargo and trash, including several science experiments, for the return home. One experiment headed home contains living spiders.

Operated by ground controllers, the space station's 58-foot Canada-built robotic arm slowly eased Dragon back away from it's docking port at 7:19 a.m. EDT, 263 miles above earth.

The craft anchored at the end of the arm was moved out to 30 feet away before being released upon the ocean of space at 9:29 a.m.

Dragon's current mission is the first of twelve planned resupply flight's to the orbital outpost in a commercial agreement valued at over $1.5 billion with NASA during the next four years.

The supply craft is expected to leave earth orbit at 2:28 p.m. as the spacecraft fires it's engines for ten minutes to slow it's orbital speed down.

Dragon is the only unmanned supply craft to have a heat shield and parachutes which can allow NASA to return space flown hardware and science experiments back to earth safely.

Splashdown is expected about 250 miles off the coast of Baja California at about 3:20 p.m.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An American, two Russians lift-off en route to space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts left earth on Tuesday to begin a five month stay aboard the International Space Station.

Soyuz commander Oleg Novitskiy, NASA veteran space flyer Kevin Ford, and Evgeny Tarelkin will live and work 260 miles above earth aboard the orbiting outpost until March 2013.

The white and green Soyuz FG rocket lifted-off on time at 6:51:11 a.m. EDT, today from it's desert launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan.

The Russian rocket darted into the clear blue skies and toward the eastern horizon as it pushed it's cramped crew tucked inside the space craft on a chase to rendezvous with it's port-of-call.

A minute into the flight, the crew reported an alarm sounding in the cabin, however ground controllers reported everything was fine on board.

As the rocket soared higher, boosters and stages which pushed the craft higher began to fall away as it emptied it's fuel.

Nine minutes after launch, the Soyuz TMA-06M craft arrived on orbit, and began to deploy it's solar arrays for two days of circling the earth.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Beautiful" Orionids meteor shower to peak early Sunday

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Clear skies overhead on Sunday will set the stage for some celestrial fireworks thanks in part to Halley's Comet.

The Orionid meteor shower will create nearly 25 shooting stars during the predawn hours of October 21 as Earth's orbit flies into dust particles of the tail of Halley's Comet.

NASA experts suggest the best viewing time is a few hours before sunrise.

"It is one of the most beautiful showers of the year," states NASA's meteor chief Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office. "Flakes of comet dust hitting the atmosphere should give us dozens of meteors per hour."

The moon will set early on Saturday night setting the stage for a dark night sky.

Cooke offers a few viewing tips to watching the celestrial show, "Go outside one to two hours before sunrise, when the sky is dark and the constellation Orion is high overhead."

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center astronomer Mitzi Adams suggests bringing a blanket or reclining chair and some hot chocolate to enjoy the show.

Cooke adds that over the last five years, "the Orionids have been one of the best meteor showers of the year, with counts in some years up to sixty or more meteors per hour."

Adams will host a live Web Chat on NASA's Ustream feed with commentary on the Orionid meteor shower beginning at 11:00 p.m. EDT, on Saturday and running through peak time at 3:00 a.m.

A live NASA camera of the night sky will also air as Adams answers viewer's questions.

Speeding at some 148,000 m.p.h., Cooke notes that the faster a meteor is the more likely it will be to explode causing a bright flash.

The space agency will also have a series of cameras trained on the night sky to capture the shooting stars.

The cameras are operated by Marshall Space Flight Center and are known as the Fireball Cameras. Several of these cameras create a network for observation, and includes one located atop the Tellus Science Museum in northwest Atlanta.

"NASA's Fireball Camera is light sensitive and will begin recording the night sky for meteors after the Sun goes down," explains Tellus' marketing director Joe Schulman. "If anything goes over, we'll capture it."

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Space station crew to spend a full year in orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A NASA astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut will expand the knowledge base on the effects of long term space travel on the human body beginning in 2015.

Space flight veterans American Scott Kelly and Russian Mikhail Kornienko will begin a full year in space in March 2015, as they live and work aboard the International Space Station.

The flight will also mark the longest space flight by an American.

"The one year increment will expand the bounds of how we live and work in space," NASA's head for human exploration Bill Gerstenmaier said on Monday. "(it) will increase our knowledge regarding the effects of microgravity on humans as we prepare for future missions beyond low earth orbit."

Kelly has spent 180 days in space during two space shuttle flights and aboard the space station, including as station commander in 2011.

Kelly and Kornienko will launch from western Kazakhstan atop a Russian Soyuz rocket, docking six hours later to the orbital outpost 260 miles high.

The duo will be visited by four expedition crews arriving and departing during their stay.

The typical time in space for a station crew is five months. NASA and the Russian Space Agency are looking for data on the human body extending out another seven months as the two nations look toward long voyages to the moon or even an asteroid.

Much is known regarding the short duration effects on a space flyer such as bone and muscle loss, and the harmful radiation levels as strong solar wind passes through the thin shell of the space complex and through the astronaut's body.

There is an even greater unknown for time exceeding six months in space.

"The goal of their yearlong expedition is to understand better how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space," stated Josh Buck at NASA Headquarters on Monday. "

The United States Department of Labor's Operational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has their own rules regarding space flight to keep radiation exposure low.

OSHA has warned since the 1990's that space flights should not last greater than six months due to levels of radiation dosage from our Sun, and the Van Allen Radiation Belt located around earth.

NASA has it's own internal guidelines regarding radiation dosage levels using the Sievert (Sv) scale during a 365-day period, and that one should not exceed 0.2 Sv while in space.

Kelly and Kornienko will begin a complex training schedule in January.

Kelly is the twin brother of former space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Commercial cargo craft launches toward Space Station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A commercial cargo craft loaded with fresh supplies and equipment lifted-off tonight on a voyage to resupply earth's orbital outpost in space.

This first operational resupply flight by a private company, Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX), is designed to repeat the company's test flight last May which saw their Dragon unmanned craft approach the International Space Station to be grappled by the station's robotic arm for docking.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket departed America's Space Coast on-time at 8:35:07 p.m. EDT, to begin a nearly three day voyage to catch up with the space station.

"We still have a lot of work to do, of course, as we guide Dragon's approach to the space station," Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, said from his company's control room in California following the craft's arrival on orbit. "The launch was an unqualified success."

The rocket's Merlin engines light up the night time Florida sky as it rose up and then darted out over the Atlantic waters as the space station soared 250 miles high above the southern Pacific Ocean.

Ten minutes after lift-off, the Dragon resupply spacecraft separated from the Falcon's upper stage to begin it's voyage to the space station.

"We are ready to grab Dragon!", NASA astronaut and station commander Suni Williams radioed down to mission control as Dragon arrived on orbit.

Dragon is loaded with nearly 900 pounds of food, oxygen, fuel and experiments which it will deliver following docking on Wednesday.

Dragon's launch is the first of twelve planned resupply flight's to the orbital outpost in a commercial agreement valued at over $1.5 billion with NASA over the next four years.

"Today's launch is a huge milestone for us; we have roughly 700 pounds of equipment coming home when Dragon returns," Julie Robinson, NASA program head with the space station program stated moments after launch. "It's a really important flight for us."

Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide will maneuver the station's 58-foot robotic arm out to grapple the appraching supply craft on Wednesday at 7:22 a.m.

The craft will then be berthed by Williams two hours later to the American Harmony port which faces toward earth.

There it will stay for three weeks while the current space station crew of three unload the new supplies and later begin storing experiments, used equipment and garbage for the craft's return to earth.

Dragon is the only unmanned supply craft to have a heat shield and parachutes which allows NASA to return space flown hardware and real time science experiments back to earth safely.

Dragon is expected to make a splashdown off the United States Pacific coastline around October 29.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Delta IV launches replacement GPS satellite

 An advanced GPS satellite soars toward orbit from Cape Canaveral. (ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A white and bronze rocket lifted-off from America's Space Coast on Thursday to deliver a new GPS satellite to a network in which commuters in the air and on the ground relay upon.

The enhanced NAVSTAR GPS IIF-3 will become a replacement satellite for one of the twenty-four aging GPS IIF's.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV-Medium launched into the blue skies of Cape Canaveral at 8:10 a.m. EDT on October 4, and then began it's arc out over the Atlantic waters.

The Boeing-built spacecraft is designed to improve network coverage for both civilian and military networks, including a new L5 signal for improved commercial and civil aviation users.

The spacecraft is scheduled to separate from the rocket's upper stage at 11:43 a.m. over an area off the coast of Hong Kong, China.

Thursday's launch came on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the dawn of the space age and the launch of the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

NASA approves Martian lander InSight for 2016 mission

ATLANTA -- NASA approved a new discovery mission to Mars which will feature the first extensive exploration of the planet's internal structure.

The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, or InSight, lander will lift-off for the Red Planet on March 8, 2016 from Cape Canaveral and land eight months later at a sight along the equator.

NASA hopes the spacecraft will provide new insight into several key questions such as does Mars have a liquid or solid core, and to learn about the planet's internal motions including the Sun's effect on the fourth planet from our closest star.

"In 2016, we will be landing a static lander and the main purpose is to deploy a seismometer instrument to see if there are any quakes on Mars," Dr. Charles Elachi, Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech explained to this aerospace reporter on Wednesday.

"More importantly to use that signal from the quake to look at the internal structure of Mars, it's core and how does it compare to earth," Dr. Elachi stated as we stood outside on the campus of Georgia Tech. "So it's really an experiment to compare the internal structure of Mars with the internal structure of Earth and it's moon."

The geophysical lander and it's instruments will be built by both American and international aerospace companies over the next two years. Lockheed Martin Space Systems will build the lander while the German Aerospace Center will build the HP3 heat probe.

NASA's JPL will instruct the lander to drill down into Mars to take the first internal temperature readings of another planet.

"InSight has a drill which will go down about five feet to measure the heat flow," Dr. Elachi added. "How is the heat flowing on the inside of Mars and up to the surface?"

France's space agency is at work on a seismometer known as SEIS which will measure seismic waves inside the Red Planet.

The new lander will feature several cameras, including the first 3D still camera on another world. Dr. Elachi explained, however, all of InSight's camera will be in black and white.

(Charles Atkeison reports on science & technology. Follow his aerospace updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Scientific rover Curiosity prepares for landing on Mars

PASADENA, Calif. -- A massive scientific rover is set to make a dynamic landing on the planet Mars on Sunday night, a type of landing which has never been tried on another world, beginning two years of exploration.

The Mars Curiosity rover will enter the atmosphere of the Red Planet protected by a heat shield and then streak across the alien atmosphere on a course to land at the base of a three-mile high mountain known as Aeolis Mons inside Gale Crater.

The rover's landing phase will have scientists at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab and observers across the planet tuned in as a huge sky crane separates upward from the rover unit and fires thrusters to slow the rover down.

Suspended by cables twenty-five feet long, Curiosity will be gently sat down inside Gale crater at 1:17 a.m. EDT on Monday. Official word of it's landing will be received fourteen minutes later at JPL.

The exact landing zone will be in the northwest section of the the 96-mile wide crater.

Once safely down the cables will separate from the never before flown sky crane and it will jet away off into the horizon.

Curiosity is part of the Mars Science Laboratory which will roam the Martian surface for 23 Earth months looking for signs of life within it's environmental history.

"This may be one of the thickest exposed sections of layered sedimentary rocks in the solar system," states NASA MSL Deputy Project Scientist Joy Crisp. "The rock record preserved in those layers holds stories that are billions of years old -- stories about whether, when, and for how long Mars might have been habitable."

The ten-foot long rover will arrive loaded with the latest technology for taking soil samples and will use a laser to blast apart rocks to study it's makeup.

 Curiosity will have several high resolution cameras aboard one of which is at the top of it's mast. JPL scientists state you will view Mars like never before.

The rover began it's 567 million mile journey from Cape Canaveral on November 26 high atop an Atlas V rocket.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

First private spacecraft docks to space station

May 24, 2012 NASA / SpaceX news conference to update Dragon.

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Astronauts aboard the International Space Station spent Saturday unloading fresh supplies from the newly arrived commercial spacecraft Dragon.

Constructed and launched by the private company Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX, Dragon arrived at the orbiting complex on Friday loaded with nearly 1200 pounds of clothes, food, water and a computer for the crew.

Flight engineer Don Pettit, who used the station's 57-foot robotic arm to pluck Dragon from space and berth it to Harmony, and two astronauts will begin on Monday unloading the craft.

The trio will then reload Dragon with station experiments, trash and equipment for it's return to earth.

Dragon will stay berthed to the station's Harmony node until Thursday.
"May 31st is our planned departure day," NASA lead flight director Holly Ridings explained to this aerospace reporter. "We've got a couple of days after that to work with, and then the Dragon if needed could stay after that."

The station's crew have bagged up most of what will be loaded and returned to earth.
"We're gonna have plenty of time to get Dragon unloaded and loaded back up," Pettit answered when I asked him about the short timeline.

 "There's about as much stuff in (Dragon) as I can put in the back of my pick-up truck, and I don't think there will be any issue with the three of us working and getting this thing unloaded over the next few days."

The final Dragon mission objective will come with the safe recovery of the payloads the craft returns from the orbital outpost.

Dragon is expected to splashdown in the Pacific waters at about 10:45 a.m. EDT, some 250 miles off the coast of southern California nearly five hours after leaving the space station.

(Charles Atkeison reports on science & technology for Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Legendary astronaut criticizes NASA and it's future

ATLANTA, Ga. -- A six time space shuttle astronaut spoke out on the way NASA is operating today and shared his personal feelings on commercial space travel's involvement.

"The whole thing is chaos and a cop out. The whole thing is a Washington failure," former NASA astronaut Dr. Story Musgrave said in a firm voice during a on-on-one interview at the Tellus Science Museum near Atlanta over the weekend.

"When I say Washington, I mean administration, the legislation, congress and NASA, that's what I call Washington," Dr. Musgrave continued. "It's in total failure when it comes to a space program of which COTS is apart of that failure."

The Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS program is an agreement with several U.S. companies to build and launch spacecraft for earth orbital voyages, including to the International Space Station.

"COTS is a default program which spun out of failure," he added.

COTS program member Space X is moving toward a Saturday launch of their Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon spacecraft atop bound for earth orbit. Two days later, Dragon is expected to rendezvous with the space station 245 miles above earth.

The station's robotic arm will then snag the cargo craft and dock it to earth's orbital outpost in space. It will become the first private spacecraft to dock with a government craft.

Musgrave, now 76, was selected by NASA in 1967 as America's Apollo moon program began. He and fellow astronauts and engineers looked toward leaders within NASA such as rocket pioneer Dr. Wernher Von Braun to lead the space program through a series of goals for landing on the moon before 1970.

Musgrave feels the space agency has no true goals or focus today.

This aerospace reporter asked what is the vision of NASA over the next decade.

"What is the space vision today? Where is the visionary? We're not going anywhere... there is no where, there is no what, and there is no when," Musgrave began. "Tell me where... there is no where."

He then firmly stated NASA has no official human moon program nor a Mars program in place for the near future.

Dr. Musgrave also wants to see a great project management team in place to make true goals for returning America back to the moon and later Mars.

"Sir, there is no Mars program, none. There is also no moon program. There is no asteroid program," Dr. Musgrave firmly stated. "There's no what we're gonna do and no when we're gonna do it. I want a what, a when and a where, and then I want a project management and make that what, when and where happen -- on cost, on schedule and meet the performance you laid down."

Musgrave said that NASA had a series of goals with the construction of the Hubble Space Telescope.

He spent eighteen years helping to design and prepare Hubble for it's launch in 1990. He then flew up to the great observatory to fix a design flaw with it's optical lens and repair twelve other issues three years later.

My story:  Legendary astronaut criticizes NASA 

 (Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

A personal voyage aboard a Blue Angels F-18 Hornet

ROBINS, AFB, Ga. -- The thrust. The high G pulls. The beauty of our earth inside an incredible high performance military aircraft.

The feelings of pure excitement as I soared over Georgia aboard a U.S. Navy Blue Angels F/A-18D Hornet on Wednesday.

The images tell only half the story of my exclusive flight inside a majestic Blue Angels jet out of Robins, AFB near Macon.

A blue and yellow special low friction high gloss painted F/A-18 sat on the flight line under blue skies awaiting her crew -- myself and her pilot Lt. Mark Tedrow. 

Her canopy stood open to greet her crew under the blue sky.

Upon each of my jet's twin vertical stabilizers is a painted yellow "7". There are seven Blue Angels jets in service six of which fly in formation during the air show.

Lt. Tedrow pilots the Angels' no. 7 aircraft. He has logged over 1400 flight hours inside military aircraft after earning his wings of gold in 2006.

I was offered this unique flight by Robins, AFB and the Blue Angels staff in February, and now my life's adventure had arrived.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Europe's Ariane 5 lifts-off on it's 60th flight

Europe's Ariane 5 lifts-off at sunset from South America. (arianespace)
An Ariane 5 rocket lifted-off on Wednesday carrying two communications satellites into earth orbit to service North America and the Middle East.

Launch of the sixtieth flight of an Ariane 5 occurred on time at 5:38:07 p.m. EDT, from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou. It was also the fifth and final Ariane flight of the year as Arianespace turns their attention to launching Russia's Soyuz 2 rocket in October and December.

The launch was delayed one day due to a surprise union labor strike at the launch site within the company Telespazio, which handles the prelaunch processing of Ariane.

Ariane's countdown was flawless as clocks neared it's sunset departure.

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

As the 165-foot tall Ariane traveled higher and faster, the boosters then finished their job a little over two minutes after launch and separated as the rocket soared 43 miles high.

Meanwhile, the main engine continued it's nine minute burn.

The rocket's protective payload fairing was jettisoned three minutes into flight as it moved into the upper atmosphere.

The core engine then shutdown six minutes later at an altitude of 116 miles, and the first stage separated seconds later. The second stage's HM-7B engine then fired up for the next few minutes.

The first payload to be deployed was that of Arabsat 5C which rode 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 separated from the upper stage at 6:05 p.m., at 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 then separated and flew 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.

Next up for Arianespace will be 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.
Several Ariane 5 flights in 2012 will deploy several satellites and a European cargo craft bound for the space station in February.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hallmark movie tells inspirational story of triumph through space education

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is home to a treasure trove of space flight history, including a garden of rocket hardware designed to educate and preserve America's first steps off our fragile oasis.

The north Alabama space center is also home to Space Camp and Aviation Challenge, two programs designed to train and teach both children and adults on what it is like to fly aboard a space shuttle or an F-16 fighter jet.

The programs also teach the importance of teamwork both at school or on the job.

"I love that I was able to experience Space Camp since it was something that I wanted to do every summer growing up," Colleen Cino from Orlando exclaimed adding she looks forward to returning with her daughter in a year.

This weekend, Space Camp is the subject of a made-for-television movie which just may raise your spirits and inspire all children ages 7 to 77 to reach for the brass ring of learning.

"A Smile as Big as the Moon" is the newest movie from Hallmark Hall of Fame productions and centers on a classroom of special needs children who come together with the help of their teacher Mike Kersjes to triumph through education at Space Camp.

copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.