Posts tagged soyuz
Great little overview of the Soyuz booster. This is an ESA-produced video designed to give some highlights now that ESA is launching Soyuz boosters from their facility in French Guiana.
Neat video showing Soyuz rocket engine testing in Voronezh, Russia. It’s in Russian, but still neat to watch.
Another video in Russian, but this one’s about Elena Serova, who could become the 4th Russian woman to ever fly in space. That’s right — the Russians have only flown 3 women in space, ever.
If you made it through the Russian videos — or even if you didn’t — you can reward yourself with this cool time lapse of auroras and starry skies over cool landscapes. Because you should like time lapses as much as I do.
Here’s a roundup of some cool space things I’ve spotted online in the past couple months!
Don Pettit, who’s been living and working onboard the ISS since late December, is blogging for Air & Space Magazine. His entries have been pretty great so far, and quite candid. Make sure you read his “Forced Smile” entry if you want a real, raw look at some of the, ahem, NOT-so-fun things involved in spaceflight. His account of what a Soyuz launch is like is also good.
Two Canadian teenagers sent a Lego-naut to 85,000 feet using a weather balloon! Critics would argue that 85,000 feet is not technically space, but that’s just semantics. I love Lego-naut!
Did you hear about the big solar storm that came our way last week? It made for some spectacular auroras, as you can see above in real time. Seems like most aurora videos are time-lapse, so I had no idea the aurora moved and flickered that much in real time! Amazing. I so want to see the this with my own eyes someday. It turns out that solar activity has another benefit too — it makes our atmosphere expand a bit, which helps clear out some of the space junk floating around up there.
This is a neat mini-documentary on the AstroVan that carried astronauts to the launch pad from 1984 until the end of the space shuttle program. 0 to 35 in a minute and a half!
I mentioned recently that NASA has stepped up its game when it comes to releasing cool photos and videos, but so have the Russians. This is a neat little video from Roscosmos from a couple years ago that they just reposted, showing a Soyuz spacecraft and rocket being rolled out to the launch pad and lifting off. They have several variants of the Soyuz rocket that all look basically the same, but you can tell this is a Soyuz spacecraft because it has the launch escape system installed on top. (Well, and it says “Soyuz TMA” on the side too, which is the name of the manned spacecraft, but you’d have to be able to read Cyrillic to recognize that.)
This cool poster from Universe Today is celebrating the Opportunity rover’s 8 years on Mars. 8 years! And still going! At the moment, Opportunity is parked on the rim of a crater ready to face another rough Martian winter. Its twin, Spirit, operated for 6+ years before sending its last transmission in March 2010. And to think they were only intended for a 90 DAY mission. 90 days versus 8 years. Pretty impressive.
I’ve come across so many spectacular space videos and photos lately that I can’t help but keep sharing them!
(from NASA: 2Explore on Flickr)
This is one more image from the Soyuz 27S landing last Monday night. Earlier, I posted the video of the entry taken from the ISS, but astronaut Dan Burbank posted this pretty incredible still photo yesterday to his Twitter account. You can see the entering Soyuz vehicle as a bright streak in the center of the image, just below the end of the Progress vehicle still docked to ISS. The Black Sea is at the bottom of the image and sunrise is starting to peek over the horizon at the top. Wow.
This video from astronaut Ron Garan, who came home on Soyuz 26S in September, made the Internet rounds last week but I didn’t sit down to watch until last night. You can read more about how he did the time lapses on his Fragile Oasis site, but first I recommend you just sit back and watch the whole thing. The time lapse footage they are getting is just gorgeous, especially the nighttime passes (I love the city lights and the lightning flashes from thunderstorms) and the auroras.
On Saturday morning, the Mars Science Laboratory — a spacecraft carrying a rover the size of a Mini Cooper — launched from Florida. It should arrive at Mars next August. Planetary missions are always exciting. Some part of my brain feels like the stakes are higher since the destination is so far away, although that makes no logical sense, since there aren’t people onboard. This video shows the separation of the spacecraft from the upper stage rocket that provided the thrust to get out of Earth orbit. Super cool! That’s the final step of what I’ll call the launch and departure sequence. (I don’t know if there is an official name for it.)
As if live video of the spacecraft separation wasn’t enough, astronomers in Australia spotted MSL later that day as it began its journey to Mars. It looked almost like a comet — really strange! The plume is assumed to be particles from the burn that took the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and on its interplanetary trajectory.
When MSL gets to Mars next August, it will land using a new system called the Skycrane. It sounds, and LOOKS, pretty crazy — but there were several factors that drove the engineering team to design the system. The Scientific American blog has a really good overview of Mars entry, descent and landing (EDL) systems and how the Skycrane came to be, if you’re interested.
Soyuz 27S landed last night smack in the middle of the Kazakhstan winter. The temperature was in the single digits, with a wind chill of -20. Welcome back to Earth, guys!
They landed about a half hour before sunrise, which is usually not done since NASA’s generic ground rules and constraints dictate that Soyuz landings happen between sunrise and sunset. But with the launch manifest a little wonky due to the impacts of the Progress failure in August, this flight ended up staying in orbit about a week longer than they were originally scheduled to avoid decrewing the ISS and provide enough time for the returning crew to hand over to the crew that just arrived last Tuesday. Delaying a week meant that they would now land just before sunrise — so the ISS Program actually had to sign a waiver allowing them to break those ground rules for this specific case.
(Don’t worry, they made sure it was ok before signing the waiver willy nilly.)
Reentering in darkness and landing in twilight resulted in some pretty cool videos and photos that you don’t get when they land during the day. First of all, the ISS crew was able to set up a camera on the station to record part of the entry. That’s the first thing you see in this video:
SO COOL, right? As you watch, you can see the plasma trail separate into a couple different blobs. The forward bright spot is the descent module, and the bright spot behind it is the orbital module and instrumentation module burning up (by design) in the atmosphere. The descent module does generate some lift since it’s a controlled entry, so it flies a bit farther downrange.
One of NASA’s staff photographers also got some great shots. I love the one above. You can see the Soyuz parachute lying on the ground, and the capsule is visible to the right as a small black dot. The larger black “splotch” is where the capsule originally landed — the retrorockets that fire just before impact scorched the ground. I love the headlights of all the recovery and search-and-rescue vehicles, and how they’re circling the capsule.
This shot of the capsule as the recovery guys prepare to get the crew out is also really cool. You can see how cold it was from how bundled up all of the recovery guys are, and I love that the helicopter in the background is just landing. The large round opening that you can see directly into is the parachute compartment. The hatch is actually on the side — well, really it’s on the top, but the vehicle landed on its side. I read somewhere that Mike Fossum had previously said that he didn’t think landing on their side would be too awful, since at least you then wouldn’t have to hoist yourself up through the hatch above your head.
It was a nice landing and I’m happy that 27S is home safely!
Whew. This week did not go the way I thought it would, but such is life in the space business sometimes.
You may remember that I work with the Russian vehicles now. There are two of them — the Soyuz, which carries crew, and the Progress, which carries cargo. On Wednesday morning, Progress 44P launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan…and never made it to orbit. It was chock full of supplies for the ISS, but it ended up scattered across Siberia after the third stage of the rocket shut down prematurely.
Fortunately, this was an unmanned cargo mission so no one was put in danger. And fortunately, the ISS is well stocked so there’s no immediate concern about the health or safety of the astronauts and cosmonauts in orbit. But there’s a big issue. The rocket that failed on Wednesday launching an unmanned cargo vehicle is very, VERY similar to the rocket used to launch the Soyuz. That means no more manned missions to the ISS until the Russians investigate the accident and figure out how to correct whatever went wrong.
(The rocket that launches Soyuz is basically just a newer version of the one used to launch Progress. All of the Russian rockets are just variations on a ballistic missile from the 50s, which is great because they have a long history of reliability…but not so great because a problem with one flavor of rocket puts suspicion onto all flavors of rocket. And nothing is 100% reliable.)
But this is the hole we’ve dug for ourselves. With the shuttle program over and the US commercial companies not quite ready to launch cargo — and definitely not ready to launch people — we are counting on the Russians to carry our crews to and from orbit. A launch vehicle failure on the very first mission after the end of shuttle?
Well, it’s not a good situation. At this moment we have no way to launch humans into space and neither does anyone else on the planet…except China.
The Russians will fix the problem, and they’ll launch both cargo and crew again very soon. The next Soyuz launch was scheduled for the end of September and it’s unlikely to be delayed by more than a month or two.
But work will definitely be busy for a while in a way I didn’t expect.
Today I worked my final shift as a space shuttle flight controller. Although I spent most of this flight supporting from the back room, I was able to work one final shift out front yesterday, and then unexpectedly got to spend another hour out there today. I’m glad I got to work the final space shuttle flight, and happy I was able to spend a final few moments at the Rendezvous console. My five years in Mission Control have been truly unforgettable.
As many of you know, in addition to finishing out the shuttle program as a flight controller, I’ve been “on rotation” to another organization at JSC since October. I’ve been working as a Visiting Vehicle Safety Engineer for the ISS program, and specifically concentrating on the Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles. A few months ago they offered me the opportunity to turn my rotation into a reassignment and join their group permanently.
I’ve watched many friends and coworkers leave NASA over the past year, some voluntarily and some the victims of layoffs. Many more will be leaving within the month after the shuttle reaches “wheels stop.” I’m very lucky to be a civil servant, so I’ve always known that I would have a job after shuttle, but I wasn’t always sure what that job would be. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been in a position where I had options, and where I was allowed to make a choice about where I wanted to go from here.
And so, after some soul-searching, I decided to accept the offer and leave the Mission Operations Directorate, where I’ve worked for more than a decade. I’ve spent all of that time in Flight Dynamics — three tours as a co-op student, four years as an analyst, and five years supporting the space shuttle as a flight controller. I’m leaving the only organization at JSC that I’ve ever really known, and I have to admit that it’s a little scary. But I’m excited too. Since I started the rotation in October, I’ve been enjoying the change of pace and the exposure to new and different things. I think that the new job will be a great opportunity for me to meet new people, learn new things, and experience parts of NASA that I’ve never seen before.
Onward and upward!
Last night I stayed up well into the wee hours to watch the Soyuz 24S undock and return. It wasn’t so bad — I slept from 8-10, watched the undocking at 11:30, slept for another hour, and watched the deorbit burn and the eventual successful landing just before 3 am. Alexander Kaleri, Oleg Skripochka and Scott Kelly are all back on Earth after 6 months on the space station. Kaleri is now the 2nd most traveled space explorer EVER; he’s spent 770 days in orbit. More than two full years. Incredible.
I’m enjoying my rotation to Safety quite a bit right now, but as a Safety person I find myself in the odd position of needing to know a lot of information but not always having good means to obtain it. Take last night: I’m not essential to a Soyuz undocking at all, because in this job I’m not a flight controller. But if something had gone wrong or they had any trouble, I would have been answering a LOT of questions today from various interested parties about what happened, what caused it, and what the impact might be for upcoming Soyuz missions. To get information, I watch the operations, I listen to the loops, and I do a lot of “spying” on notes and reports from the flight controllers and from the Houston Support Group personnel stationed in Russia. It’s a little strange, for sure.
This video shows the crew getting into the Soyuz and the ISS crew closing the hatch, plus highlights of the undock and landing:
The conditions at the landing site in Kazakhstan were pretty insane. There were inches of snow on the ground and the wind was blowing it all over the place. The temperature was reported to be around 0 degrees. It cracks me up every time to see the huge difference between how NASA operates and how the Russians operate. I can’t imagine the shuttle EVER coming down in conditions like that; it’s just not designed to handle it. But the Soyuz can just plop down at any time in basically any weather. Can you imagine the shock the crew must have felt, after 6 months in a climate controlled spacecraft, to be pulled out of the Soyuz into freezing weather and blowing snow? As usual, they were lifted into chairs and just sat there for a bit, encased in sleeping bags and covered in blankets as the snow swirled around them. I can’t help but giggle at what they must have been thinking.
Today started at 7 am and by 3:00 I was SO READY to get away from work. It was a crazy, crazy day.
I’ve been working through the CoFR (Certification of Flight Readiness) process for the first time, which involves a lot of information gathering and chart making and presentation giving. This process happens for every launch of anything that goes to the space station, and I’m currently doing it for the next Progress launch, scheduled for the end of this month.
It’s nice to start with a Progress launch instead of a Soyuz mission. Because Progress is unmanned, the process is a little easier and people are more relaxed. (When there are astronauts and cosmonauts onboard, the stakes are understandably higher. That’s not to imply that standards are lax for unmanned vehicles, but hopefully you get the gist.)
Each time I think I’ve gotten my head wrapped around the next step in the process, I find out that I missed like 3 other steps. Some are technical items, and many others are paperwork and process related. There is a lot of paperwork and process involved when you’re 1) a government agency from this country working with 2) a government agency from another country. I thought things were complicated when I was inside the space shuttle bubble, but wow — it’s a whole other WORLD to learn when our international partners are involved!
I know I’m still learning my job — and honestly it’s kinda nice to have that “excuse” at the moment — but unfortunately it doesn’t make me any less frustrated that I’ve been 3 steps behind where I should be the entire time. I’m just trying to stay positive and remind myself of what I learned in Russian class last week:
Первый блин комом!
(The first pancake is a flop. In other words: practice makes perfect!)