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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Space And Science News. The Imaginarium. A Great End to Your Tuesday.

Space News and Science News

VTVL Grasshopper Continues to Succeed

Grasshopper rocket descends toward landing pad. Credit: SpaceX.

Science fiction fans are loving this. 

Back in the 1950's and early 60's it was a staple of Sci-fi space movies to include a group of intrepid explorers in their finned rocket blasting off from their government base, and landing at their destination in a similar manner: On it's tail!

On the Moon: scene from Destination Moon (1950) [George Pal Productions]. Look for astronauts near the base of the rocket for scale perspective.

These days it's SpaceX creating the rocket buzz. The company that has given us the Falcon rocket and the Dragon robotic spacecraft delivering supplies to the ISS, is producing a variant of the Falcon rocket that will be re-useable. Lifting off from its launchpad in McGregor, Texas, the most recent flight saw the Flacon 9 derivative reach 1066 feet (325 meters), hover, then descend to a perfect precision landing at its original pad. Parabolic Arc has the cool video of this event:

Grasshopper in flight. Credit: SpaceX

Currently, Grasshopper uses the Falcon 9 first stage and the Merlin 1D engine. Eventually, SpaceX hopes to fly an advanced version that will reach space, deliver its payload, then carefully re-enter the atmosphere and descend back to its pad. Then it would be refurbished, refueled, and fly again. The designation for this type of craft would be VTVL (Vertical Take-off Vertical Landing). 

Russian Proton M Rocket Explodes

After beginning to tumble, the rocket fuel tanks burst into flame. Credit: Russian TV.

After a week of space successes, the Russian space program suffered a setback Monday with the loss of a Proton-M rocket and its three global positioning navigation satellites. Launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, the rocket lifted off OK but quickly developed a veer away from the flight path and started a tumble. As the rocket broke apart under the aerodynamic stress, the fuel exploded moments before the entire assembly crashed into the ground, creating a huge fireball.

Because the rocket broke up first, a large cloud of its rocket fuel, which is toxic to humans, moved with the wind towards the nearest town. Residents were warned to stay inside and close all windows and doors.

Reporter James Oberg notes that this type of rocket is scheduled to deliver a new module to the ISS later this year. The Russians might want to make sure this doesn't happen again...

A cloud of smoke marks the impact site. Credit: RiaNovosti

A Week of International Space Activity

Cosmonaut Yurchikhin outside the ISS.

It wasn't a week of ONLY International space activity, but I thought I'd post some of the goings-on by our ISS partners the Russian Space Agency and the conclusion of the Chinese Shenzhou 10 mission. On June 24, Expedition 36 flight engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin completed a successful six and one half hour spacewalk outside the ISS. The main reason for the EVA was to continue hookup preparations for a new Russian-built ISS Module, coming later this year, that will replace the PIRS module. That project will be the first renovation of the station since its completion at the end of the Space Shuttle program. 

Cosmonaut Misurkin works on the Zarya module.

During the spacewalk, the cosmonauts also retrieved some experiments that had been outside the station exposed to the vacuum of space, and did some preventative maintenance on the Zarya module cooling system. There are four more Russian spacewalks scheduled for 2013, and two spacewalks by Americans in July.

Outside the ISS.

During the spacewalk, the Expedition 36 crew continued on working with ISS equipment or were involved in supporting the EVA. Due to the layout of the Russian module segments and their hatch locations, astronaut Chris Cassidy and Commander cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov were required to remain in the Soyuz 08M craft attached to the Poisk module, while the other two astronauts were free to move about the American side of the station.

Soyuz 2-1b rocket on launch pad.

The Russians also had a busy launch schedule. On June 25, they launched a Soyuz 2-1b rocket from Baikonur and paced a remote-sensing satellite in orbit. Then on June 26, a Soyuz ST-b rocket lifted off from the European Space Agency launch site in French Guiana, carrying four satellites designed to expand broadband Internet communications to areas of the planet that currently have weak or no coverage.

Televised parachute opening of returning Shenzhou-10 capsule.

June 26 also saw the ending of China's Shenzhou-10 space station mission. Declaring a success, China's crew landed in Inner Mongolia safely and was returned to a cheering nation. China will now focus on building the technology for a new station and expanded series of ferry rockets for carrying crew and supplies.

The Imaginarium
Today, we make the ordinary, extraordinary.  Tomorrow we conquer the world.

An AT-AT  Day Afternoon....

Thanks for sharing Mark.

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A Child Collider

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