Friday, January 20, 2017

Weather 70% 'GO' For Atlas V Rocket Launch Of Missile Warning System



CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- Weather chances are 70% 'GO' for Friday's launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 configuration rocket carrying a Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 3 mission from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The mission has a 40-minute launch window that is scheduled to open at at 7:42 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday, January 20, 2017.

Launch Weather 70% 'GO'

According to the latest weather forecast from the United States Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is an 70% percent chance overall of acceptable weather conditions for Friday's launch.  The primary weather concern for launch is cumulus clouds and thick clouds.



 MISSION PAYLOAD:

The Atlas V's payload is considered one of the nation's highest priority space programs. SBIRS is designed to provide global, persistent, infrared surveillance capabilities in national security missions.

SBIRS includes a combination of satellites in GEO orbit, hosted payloads in Highly Elliptical Orbit, and ground hardware and software. The data provided by SBIRS enhances the military’s ability to detect missile launches, supports ballistic missile defense, expands technical intelligence gathering, and bolsters situational awareness on the battlefield.

“SBIRS GEO satellites are our nation’s missile warning sentinels and are critical assets to the U.S. military’s continually evolving mission,” said David Sheridan, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared systems mission area. “With GEO Flight 3’s successful testing and delivery to the launch site, we’re expanding the military’s ability to receive timely, reliable and accurate missile warning and infrared surveillance information.”

Above Image (from left to right): Mission logo, Geo Flight 2 aboard Atlas V, SBIRS satellite. Credits: ULA / Lockheed Martin

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Full Moon Tonight: January 12, 2017

Full Moon

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The first Full Moon of 2017 will occur tonight on Thursday, January 12, 2017, beginning with a moonrise over the Atlantic at 6:18 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (with a few minutes of variation depending on your exact location).


The Full Moon will technically be 99.8% full at 12:13 a.m. before it sets the following Friday morning at 8:03 a.m.  A Full Moon in January has seasonal names such as a "Wolf's Moon" or "Old Moon."

For those planning a moonlit stroll along the beach on the U.S. East Coast, this Full Moon brings along with it a 3'9" Atlantic Ocean high tide that will occur around 7:33 p.m. (with a slight time and height variation depending on your exact location).  A very low tide will occur at 12:55 a.m. Friday morning.

Image Credit: NASA

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

SpaceX Determines Cause Of September 1, 2016 Falcon 9 Explosion


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - SpaceX announced on Monday that a team of investigators have finally determined the cause of the Falcon 9 explosion that occurred on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on September 1, 2016.

The accident investigation team worked systematically through an extensive fault tree analysis and concluded that one of the three composite over-wrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the second stage liquid oxygen (LOX) tank failed. Specifically, the investigation team concluded the failure was likely due to the accumulation of oxygen between the COPV liner and over-wrap in a void or a buckle in the liner, leading to ignition and the subsequent failure of the COPV.


Each stage of Falcon 9 uses COPVs to store cold helium which is used to maintain tank pressure, and each COPV consists of an aluminum inner liner with a carbon over-wrap. The recovered COPVs showed buckles in their liners. Although buckles were not shown to burst a COPV on their own, investigators concluded that super chilled LOX can pool in these buckles under the over-wrap. When pressurized, oxygen pooled in this buckle can become trapped; in turn, breaking fibers or friction can ignite the oxygen in the over-wrap, causing the COPV to fail. In addition, investigators determined that the loading temperature of the helium was cold enough to create solid oxygen (SOX), which exacerbates the possibility of oxygen becoming trapped as well as the likelihood of friction ignition.

The investigation team identified several credible causes for the COPV failure, all of which involve accumulation of super-chilled LOX or SOX in buckles under the over-wrap.

SpaceX said in a statement that its corrective actions address all credible causes and focus on changes which avoid the conditions that led to these credible causes. In the short term, this entails changing the COPV configuration to allow warmer temperature helium to be loaded, as well as returning helium loading operations to a prior flight proven configuration based on operations used in over 700 successful COPV loads. In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the COPVs to prevent buckles altogether, which will allow for faster loading operations.​

The investigation team was made up of officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. Air Force (USAF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), along with several industry experts and SpaceX personnel.

Investigators scoured more than 3,000 channels of video and telemetry data covering a very brief timeline of events – there were just 93 milliseconds from the first sign of anomalous data to the loss of the second stage, followed by loss of the vehicle. Because the failure occurred on the ground, investigators were also able to review umbilical data, ground-based video, and physical debris. To validate investigation analysis and findings, SpaceX conducted a wide range of tests at its facilities in Hawthorne, California and McGregor, Texas.

The 6-ton AMOS-6 satellite that was also destroyed in the explosion would have been the heaviest satellite that SpaceX launched into Geo Stationary Orbit using the rocket's nine Merlin engines.


Image and video credit: USLaunchReport.com via YouTube

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter Solstice: The First Day Of Winter

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice falls on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 10:44 a.m. Universal Time (5:44 a.m. Eastern Time), according to the U.S. Naval Observatory.

What is the Winter Solstice?

The Winter Solstice, as pictured in the above NASA image, is caused by a tilt of the earth's rotating axis and marks the first day of winter. It is the shortest day and longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere for locations like Melbourne, Florida, but the reverse happens in the southern hemisphere for locations such as Melbourne, Australia.

The Winter Solstice can occur on December 20, 21, 22, or 23, depending on calendar events such as leap year and when the Solstice begins relative to Coordinated Universal Time.

According to NASA, it is not the Sun that is moving north or south through the seasons, but a change in the orientation and angles between the Earth and its nearest star. The axis of the Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees relative to the Sun and the ecliptic plane. The axis is tilted away from the Sun at the December solstice and toward the Sun at the June solstice, spreading more and less light on each hemisphere. At the equinoxes, the tilt is at a right angle to the Sun and the light is spread evenly.


Around 6 a.m. local time each day, the Sun, Earth, and any geosynchronous satellite form a right angle, affording a nadir (straight down) view of the terminator, the edge between the shadows of nightfall and the sunlight of dusk and dawn. The shape of this line between night and day varies with the seasons, which means different lengths of days and differing amounts of warming sunshine. (The line is actually a curve because the Earth is round, but satellite images only show it in two-dimensions.)

On March 20 and September 20, the terminator is a straight north-south line, and the Sun is said to sit directly above the equator.  On December 21, the Sun resides directly over the Tropic of Capricorn when viewed from the ground, and sunlight spreads over more of the Southern Hemisphere.  On June 21, the Sun sits above the Tropic of Cancer, spreading more sunlight in the north and turning the tables on the south.  The bulge of our spherical Earth blocks sunlight from the far hemisphere at the solstices; that same curvature allows the Sun’s rays to spread over more area near the top and bottom of the globe.

But how can it be called the First Day of Winter and Mid-Winter at the same time?

Although the December Solstice marks the beginning of Northern Winter, it is often called Mid-Winter. The difference lies in the definitions created by culture, agriculture and astronomy. According to astronomers, December 21st marks the beginning of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The official start and end of Winter can vary by country - not because Winter starts a week or so earlier in one country than another in the same hemisphere, but because the recognition of the start of Winter is often influenced by historical or cultural reasons particular to that country.  Most countries recognize Winter as starting on dates ranging in November and ending sometime in March.

Why does there seem to be such a lag time between the longest night and the coldest days?

Blame the oceans, which heat up and cool down slowly.   Although the Winter Solstice marks the lowest exposure of the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to the Sun's heating radiation, the oceans are still warm in the Northern Hemisphere from the summertime, and that delays the peak heat by about a month and a half.  Similarly, in June the water still cold from the Winter, and the average warmest days are still a month and a half ahead.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Gemind Meteor Shower Peaks December 13, 2016


The Geminids meteor shower, which began on December 4 and runs through December 17, 2016, peaks tomorrow night, December 13th through 14th, 2016. The Geminids meteor shower is considered the best meteor shower of the year because it is the most consistent and active annual meteor shower which can be seen from almost any point on Earth.




Where to watch the Geminids meteor shower:


The Geminids meteor shower is the most intense meteor shower of the year and can be seen from almost any point on Earth, depending on local cloud cover and artificial lighting.


What time is the 2016 Geminids meteor shower?


The Geminids meteor shower begins around 9 p.m. every evening at the viewer's respective local time. The meteor shower will be the most intense and directly overhead during the hours of 1 to 3 a.m.


Where to look for Geminids meteor shower:

Geminids meteors stream from a point called "the radiant" in the constellation Gemini. They will rise in the east around 9 p.m. and be directly overhead at 2 a.m. The meteor shower sets in the western sky just before sunrise.

A Full Moon coincides with the Geminids meteor shower peak this year which will lighten the night sky and make the meteor shower less spectacular than previous years. But the Geminds are so bright that they could still put on a spectacular show.

Where do the Geminids meteors come from?

Most meteor showers come from comets, which spew ample meteoroids for a night of 'shooting stars.' The Geminids are different. They are produced when Earth plows through a cloud of debris from an oddball object named 3200 Phaethon, which some astronomers describe as a cross between an asteroid and a comet.

Once thought to be an asteroid, Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet. It is the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun.

There were no recorded Geminids before the mid-1800's. The first Geminids shower suddenly appeared in 1862, surprising sky watchers who saw 15 or so shooting stars each hour.

Photo credit: NASA

Airborne Launch Of CYGNSS Aboard Pegasus Rocket Scrubbed


After two launch attempts, the mission has been scrubbed for today due to a faulty circuit breaker. NASA is rescheduling the launch for no earlier than Wednesday, Dec. 14 during a one-hour window that opens at 8:20 a.m. EST.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - The airborne launch of NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) spacecraft aboard a Pegasus rocket is scheduled for 8:24 a.m. EST on Monday December 12, 2016. The launch window remains open for one hour.

About an hour prior to launch, the Pegasus rocket will take off from the Skid Strip runway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard Orbital ATK’s L-1011 aircraft, nicknamed “Stargazer.” The L-1011 airliner will carry Pegasus to an altitude of 39,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. Five seconds after being dropped from the belly of the aircraft, Pegasus' solid-fueled first stage will ignite, propelling the rocket and its payload into outer space before second and third stage rockets take over to precisely position the eight micro-satellites.


Once in orbit, CYGNSS will be the first scientific mission to probe the inner core of hurricanes in greater detail to better understand their rapid intensification. CYGNSS will make frequent and accurate measurements of ocean surface winds throughout the lifecycle of tropical storms and hurricanes. The CYGNSS constellation will measure surface winds in and near a hurricane’s inner core, including regions beneath the eyewall and intense inner rainbands that previously could not be measured from space.

The latest forecast from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicts a 60 percent chance of favorable launch weather. The primary weather concerns for launch are flight through precipitation and cumulus clouds.

Photo credit: Orbital ATK. Live Streaming Credit: NASATV

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

WATCH LIVE: WGS-8 Delta IV Rocket Launch From Cape Canaveral

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) configuration rocket carrying a U.S. military communications satellite is scheduled to lift off on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The 50-minute launch window opens at 6:53 p.m Eastern Standard Time.

Launch Weather 80% 'GO'

According to the latest weather forecast from the United States Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is an 80% chance overall of acceptable weather conditions for the Delta IV launch.


Mission Payload

Dubbed WGS-8. the Delta IV's payload is the eighth Wideband Global SATCOM mission for the U.S. Air Force.

WGS satellites are part of a high-capacity satellite communications system which provides enhanced communications capabilities to U.S. troops in the field.  With powerful anti-jamming capablilities, WGS enables more robust and flexible execution of Command and Control, Communications Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, as well as battle management and combat support information functions. The WGS constellation augments the existing service available through the UHF Follow-on satellite by providing enhanced information broadcast capabilities.

Watch the Delta IV WGS-8 Launch Live Online


Image and video credit: ULA

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Weather 90% 'GO' For Atlas V Rocket Launch From Cape Canaveral


6th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:42 p.m

5th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:32 p.m

4th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:27 p.m

3rd UPDATE: New launch time is 6:22 p.m

2nd UPDATE: New launch time is 6:17 p.m

UPDATE: New launch time is 6:07 p.m.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- Weather is 90% go for today's launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 configuration rocket carrying a Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The mission has a one-hour launch window that is scheduled to open at at 5:42 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Saturday, November 19, 2016.

A live broadcast of the launch can be seen online beginning at 4:45 p.m. at http://www.ulalaunch.com/ and https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#public

GOES-R is the first of four satellites to be launched for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA in a new and advanced series of weather spacecraft. Once in geostationary orbit, it will be known as GOES-16.




The spacecraft will provide continuous imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere and space weather monitoring. Compared with today’s geostationary satellites, GOES-R will scan the Earth five times faster at four times image resolution and triple the number of channels scientists can tap into to observe global weather and climate.

In addition to weather forecasting, GOES-R carries a transponder to detect distress signals from emergency beacons on aircraft, boats/ships and carried by individuals as part of the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system.

For more details about the GOES-R mission, visit NASA's website.

Image credit: NASA

Atlas V Rocket Launch Of GOES-R Satellite Set For November 19



6th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:42 p.m

5th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:32 p.m

4th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:27 p.m

3rd UPDATE: New launch time is 6:22 p.m

2nd UPDATE: New launch time is 6:17 p.m

UPDATE: New launch time is 6:07 p.m.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 configuration rocket carrying a Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida is scheduled to launch on Saturday, November 19, 2016.   The one-hour launch window opens at 5:42 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

GOES-R is the first of four satellites to be launched for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA in a new and advanced series of weather spacecraft. Once in geostationary orbit, it will be known as GOES-16.

The spacecraft will provide continuous imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere and space weather monitoring. Compared with today’s geostationary satellites, GOES-R will scan the Earth five times faster at four times image resolution and triple the number of channels scientists can tap into to observe global weather and climate.




GOES-R will support short-term forecasts and severe storm watches and warnings, maritime forecasts, seasonal predictions, drought outlooks and space weather predictions. The satellite also will improve hurricane tracking and intensity forecasts, increase thunderstorm and tornado warning lead time, improve aviation flight route planning, and provide data for long-term climate variability studies.

In addition to weather forecasting, GOES-R carries a transponder to detect distress signals from emergency beacons on aircraft, boats/ships and carried by individuals as part of the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system.

For more details about the GOES-R mission, visit NASA's website.

Image credit: NASA

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Biggest Supermoon In 70 Years Tonight

Supermoon Tonight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- There will be a Full Moon tonight, Sunday, November 13, 2016 - but not just any Full Moon, this will be the biggest Supermoon in 68 years. This Supermoon will appear 15% larger and 30% brighter than regular Full Moons.


A Supermoon occurs because the Moon is in an elliptical orbit around the Earth.  When the Moon is closest to Earth, it is at its orbital perigee, which is why a Supermoon is also known as a Perigee Moon. The November 2016 Supermoon will be the closest approach to the Earth so far during this century.

When does the Supermoon begin?

The November 2016 Supermoon begins with a moonrise over the Atlantic Ocean on Florida's east coast at 5:11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, November 13, 2016.

The Moon will be at its fullest (99.6% full) the following morning at 8:52 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday, November 14, 2016.  However, the Moon will set two hours beforehand at 6:35 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

When is the best time to watch the Supermoon?  

Low-hanging moons near the horizon appear the biggest to humans.  So the Supermoon will appear biggest to the naked eye on the Florida east coast:

During and just after the moonrise at 5:11 p.m. on November 13.

Just before and during the moonset at 6:35 a.m. on November 14.

During and just after the moonrise at 6:02 p.m. on November 14.



Will The Supermoon Cause Higher Tides? 


Yes. The Supermoon will cause higher than normal tides. For those planning a stroll along the beach to watch the moonrise over the ocean, this Supermoon will cause a nearly 5-foot high tide during the moonrises and moonset.


Why is a Full  Moon in November Called a Beaver Moon?

A Full Moon in November has seasonal names such as a "Beaver's Moon" or "Frosty Moon" to indicate that it was the last time to catch Beavers for their fur as winter approaches.

Photo credit: NASA