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Friday, April 11, 2014

New Theme Park Coming to Pleasant Grove. Lunar Eclipse Next Week. Space and Science News. The Imaginarium. The Weekend Starts Now.

Evermore Theme Park 
Coming to Pleasant Grove in 2015!

Space and Science News

The entire eclipse will last over three and a half hours, starting at 1:58 a.m. EDT (April 15) or 11:58 p.m. Utah time (April 14) when the moon begins to plunge into the umbra, the darkest center of our planet's shadow.
The best part of eclipse will be during totality, starting at 3:07 a.m. EDT (1:07 a.m. Utah time) and lasting 78 minutes. After that, Earth's shadow begins to leave the surface of the moon.

50 Years Ago: Gemini Program First Unmanned Launch

NASA published image of Gemini Launching atop a modified Titan II rocket. The Launch tower more closely resembles the familiar tower design we would see later with the Apollo program.

Between the end of the Mercury program and the start of launches for Project Gemini, there were lots of rockets tested, satellites put into space, and experiments conducted in the upper atmosphere and Earth orbit. Then 50 years ago on April 8th, the look and feel of the new Gemini program came to life as the twin engines on the Titan II rocket roared into action. With the exhaust plume directed under the pad and to the side, cameras had a clear view of the rocket flames as the vehicle lifted off and cleared the tower. Perched on top of the rocket was a mockup of the Gemini capsule (called the boilerplate) that gave us the view of how missions would look in future launches. In the future, two astronauts would ride the rocket and no American would go into space alone again. 

Before the launch. The gantry tower, which was used to help stack the stages of the rocket together with the capsule, lowered into a horizontal position to avoid damage from the blast-off. 

Designated mission GT-1 (Gemini-Titan 1), this test mission was designed to evaluate the entire Titan II launch vehicle system, and the Gemini spacecraft integrity and compatibility with the rocket. After a perfect countdown and liftoff, the rocket staged and placed not only the capsule but also the second stage into orbit about 204 miles at its highest. OK, maybe not perfect. The vehicle faster than expected placing the craft in orbit going 14 miles faster than planned. The orbit path was not meant to last a long time, and the assembly was calculated to re-enter the atmosphere in 3 and a half days.

The next day, Titan II ICBM testing at Florida came to an end. The 33rd and final rocket launch for the USAF made a successful trip out over the Atlantic, and the ICBM portion of Titan II Research and development was completed.

Atlas V Blast-off Restarts Florida Launches

Mission NROL-67 blasts off from SLC-41 in Cape Canaveral. All pics in this post are from ULA.

Yesterday at 1:45 PM EDT an Atlas V carrying a spy satellite lifted off without problems for an eastern flight across the Atlantic Ocean and up into geosynchronous orbit. With this successful launch, and no reported problems from the recently repaired Range radar, the launch schedule from Florida can resume. The next flight is on April 14, when SpaceX launches the Falcon rocket with its Dragon resupply spacecraft to the ISS.

Atlas V on pad SLC-41.

It was a beautiful day for a launch, and congratulations to the ULA (United Launch Alliance) team that has launched two Atlas V missions across the country from each other within about a week's time.

Ground view of the Atlas V.

View from across the inlet. Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center are surrounded by a beautiful wildlife refuge. The white tower to the left of the pad is the rocket gantry complex.

Another aerial view that really shows how the pad is surrounded by water. The Freshwater parts also include alligators!


The Atlas V goes supersonic. The solid rocket boosters give a tremendous push.

With their fuel expended, the boosters are jettisoned and the rocket continues to climb using its core fuel. 

US Cargo Missions to ISS to Resume

SpaceX Falcon rocket with Dragon cargo spacecraft at Complex SLC-40. 

The main radar installation that supports launches from both the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station suffered a fire a few weeks ago. It turns out that the radar, operated by the 45th Space Wing of Patrick Air Force Base, required major surgery to repair. As a consequence, launches scheduled from the east coast of Florida were delayed. Today that delay will end, hopefully, with the launch of an Atlas V carrying a classified military satellite. Following today's launch, SpaceX will be clear to launch its Dragon cargo spacecraft to the ISS on April 14th.

Atlas V launch last Thursday from Vandenberg AFB.

Today's Altas V launch was itself dependent on a successful launch of another Atlas V mission last week from Vandenberg AFB in California. That mission, carrying an Air Force weather satellite, started a 7 day turnaround for support crew elements and a review of the launch data. Once the data had been cleared, and the support crew from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) had transferred over to  Florida to work on the launch of the new updated Atlas V 541, which can launch heavier payloads than the earlier Atlas V versions. Today's mission carries a secret spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. 

Progress spacecraft approaches the ISS.

In the meantime, the glitch that occurred on the recent Russian Soyuz launch to the ISS seems not to have repeated with the launch this week of a Progress robotic cargo spacecraft to the station. Using the navigational shortcut trajectory, the Progress M-23M (P55) spacecraft successfully arrived to dock with the station after a six hour flight on Wednesday April 9th. A previous Progress spacecraft, Progress M-22M (P54), undocked from the ISS on Monday. Filled with garbage and waste, the craft will remain in orbit for 11 days while engineers on the ground conduct some final experiments, then it will burn up in the atmosphere. The current Progress is docked at the Russian-built Pirs module.

By Mark Daymont
Farpoint Educator

The Imaginarium

Oh the places we can go

Winston Churchill

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