The Most Unique Rocket Launch You’ll Ever See

Have you ever heard of a girandola? I had not until we came across this video — which is pretty incredible! This might be one of the most unique things I’ve ever seen.

Girandolas are flying horizontal wheels and are a favorite of pyrotechnicians.

But as rudimentary as the setting looks in the video, girandolas are high precision, finely tuned instruments. According a group of fireworks professionals called the Pennsylvania Organization of Recreational Chaos (PORC), “you must have every driver (rocket motor) fire at the same time and be precisely tuned in order for the girandola to fly. There is very little room for error or it will not fly.”

You can find more info about girandolas at the link above, or here and it looks like they are available for purchase here.

SpaceX Could Launch 17 Rockets in 2015, Including the Most Powerful Rocket Since Saturn V

If all goes as hoped, SpaceX will have a very busy 2015. The commercial space company could launch as many as 17 rockets, including a mid-flight test abort of the Dragon capsule to demonstrate its in-flight crew escape system. Then there’s the launch that every rocket aficionado one has been waiting for: the demonstration mission of the 27-engine Falcon Heavy rocket.

Already, SpaceX has launched one mission in 2015, the CRS-5 Dragon resupply mission for the International Space Station that was delayed from December 2014. In addition to successfully hooking up with the ISS, SpaceX also tested out a flyback and landing system for the Falcon 9 first stage, which was deemed “mostly successful” despite a spectacular explosion when it careened off the target, a floating ocean barge. The next test of the landing system will occur with the launch of the solar wind monitoring DSCOVR satellite, which has just been delayed slightly to February 9.

While SpaceX itself does not list upcoming launch dates on its own website, a site put together by SpaceX enthusiast Lukas Davia called SpaceXStats has garnered a list of potential launch dates from NASA and other customers, and they say up to 16 more launches could take place this year. SpaceX will be launching more space station resupply missions, commercial satellite launch missions, and US government science and national security missions.

Delays like the recently announced launch delay for DSCOVR, will greatly impact how many launches SpaceX will be able to conduct this year. Musk has said his company could launch about one rocket per month during 2015, while other sources predict 10-12 launches for the commercial company.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule packed with science experiments and station supplies blasts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Sept. 21, 2014 bound for the ISS.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule packed with science experiments and station supplies blasts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Sept. 21, 2014 bound for the ISS. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

As reported in Spaceflightnow.com, SpaceX had a similar number of flights on its docket in 2014, including the Falcon Heavy’s debut launch and the Dragon abort tests, which has slipped to be on the launch manifest for 2015. Six Falcon 9 rockets ended up blasting off last year.

Most of the missions will take off from Cape Canaveral’s launch complex, where up to 24 launches could take place this year. Along with the launches from SpaceX, United Launch Alliance has launches schedule for satellites for the U.S. military, NASA and commercial companies.

Video: Falcon Heavy

The Falcon Heavy was originally scheduled for its first test flight in late 2012 or early 2013 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, but it now will launch from the refurbished pads at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX says this rocket was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and “restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.”

The Falcon Heavy will lift over 53 metric tons (117,000 lb) to orbit, about three times the performance of the Falcon 9. It is comprised of three nine-engine Falcon 9 first stage booster cores and uses upgraded Merlin 1D engines.

Here’s a sampling of launches from SpaceXStats, see the full list here.

9 Feb 2015 DSCOVR NOAA Falcon 9 v1.1 SLC-40, Florida
17 Feb 2015 Eutelsat 115W B & ABS-3A Asia Broadcast Satellite Falcon 9 v1.1 SLC-40, Florida
March 2015 Dragon Inflight Abort SpaceX / NASA Falcon 9 v1.1 SLC-4E, Vandenberg, California
8 Apr 2015 SpaceX CRS-6 NASA Falcon 9 v1.1 SLC-40, Florida
H1 2015 Falcon Heavy Test Flight SpaceX Falcon Heavy LC-39A, Florida

Video: SpaceX’s Year in Review, 2014:

High Winds, Technical Issues, and a Boat Delay Orion Test Flight

Wind gusts, an issue with valves on the Delta IV Heavy rocket, and an errant cruise ship all contributed to scrub the scheduled maiden test fight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft.

The launch team has tentatively rescheduled a new liftoff time of 7:05 a.m. EST on Friday, December 5 as the opening of a 2-hour, 39 minute window. Launch coverage will begin at 6 a.m. EST tomorrow on NASA TV. However, forecasts call for just 40% chance of acceptable weather conditions on Friday.

The test flight was scheduled from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a four-and-a-half-hour test flight of an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to Earth orbit. The countdown was halted twice when wind gusts exceeded limits. The countdown was also delayed when a boat entered restricted waters off the coast near the Launchpad.

Then, during a third launch attempt an issue with propellant valves on the Delta 4 Heavy’s first stage could not be resolved before the launch window closed.

The planned two-orbit Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) flight around Earth will lift the Orion spacecraft and it’s attached second stage to an orbital altitude of 3,600 miles, about 15 times higher than the International Space Station (ISS) – and farther than any human spacecraft has journeyed in 40 years. It will test several key systems on Orion, including electronics, the heat shield and parachutes.

Universe Today’s Ken Kremer is on hand in Florida and will provide continuing coverage of the test flight. You can also follow NASA’s Orion Blog for updates.

NASA Releases Photos of Aftermath of Launchpad Explosion

NASA released images of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science’s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff on Tuesday, Oct. 28. Visible is damage to the transporter erector launcher and lightning suppression rods, as well as debris around the pad. But given the spectacular secondary explosion when the rocket fell back to the pad, the damage – as viewed from the air – looks relatively minor.

Another aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket Oct. 28, Wallops Island, VA. Photo Credit: (NASA/Terry Zaperach)
Another aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket Oct. 28, Wallops Island, VA. Photo Credit: (NASA/Terry Zaperach)

NASA and Orbital have begun and initial assessment of the accident, but they said it will “take many more weeks to further understand and analyze the full extent of the effects of the event.”

NASA added that a number of support buildings in the immediate area have broken windows and imploded doors. What suffered the most damage were buildings nearest to pad 0A, where the launch took place, as well as a sounding rocket launcher adjacent to pad 0A.

“I want to praise the launch team, range safety, all of our emergency responders and those who provided mutual aid and support on a highly-professional response that ensured the safety of our most important resource — our people,” said Bill Wrobel, Wallops director. “In the coming days and weeks ahead, we’ll continue to assess the damage on the island and begin the process of moving forward to restore our space launch capabilities. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will rebound stronger than ever.”

NASA also said that environmental effects of the launch failure were largely contained within the southern third of Wallops Island, in the area immediately adjacent to the pad. Air sample were taken in the area and of nearby Chincoteague Island, and no hazardous substances were detected at the sampled locations.

You can see more imagery at NASA’s Flickr page.

Universe Today’s Ken Kremer was interviewed for NBC News, and you can view the feature below:

Source: NASA

BREAKING: Antares Rocket Explodes at Liftoff

Seconds after liftoff, Orbital Science’s Antares rocket exploded as it rose from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. In video, the explosion appeared to come at the base of the rocket. The entire stack then fell back to the ground, with a second larger explosion.

According to NASA TV, there were no injuries reported at the launch site but there appears to be damage to the launch pad.

We’ll provide more information and updates as they become available. NASA and Orbital said they would be scheduling a news conference. Our Ken Kremer is on location at Wallops.

This is the first launch failure for NASA’s commercial space companies. Antares has had five successful launches. The launch was originally scheduled for Oct. 27 but was scrubbed when a boat entered restricted waters off the coast from the launch site.

The mission, was the third of eight Commercial Resupply Services missions that Orbital Sciences is under contract to NASA. The Cygnus capsule, named by Orbital the “SS Deke Slayton” after the late astronaut, was carrying 2,290 kilograms of cargo for the International Space Station.

This video was shot by journalist Matthew Travis at the press site at Wallops:

Every Falcon 9 Launch in One Image

If you’re a fan of SpaceX, you’ll love the website SpaceXStats. Writ large on the site are real-time countdowns to upcoming launches, all sorts of SpaceX statistics, launch manifest info, and fun trivia (there’s a countdown to how many days until Elon Musk’s bet about getting to Mars by 2020 or 2025 expires.)

The owner of the site, Lukas Davia, recently created a fantastic Falcon 9 launch collage, which was originally posted on imgur and discussed on Reddit (where there’s a 16,000-strong SpaceX community).

Lukas told Universe Today that one r/SpaceX user recently inquired if anyone had come across SpaceX montages. “While I don’t have the time for any serious video editing, I did have enough time spare to create a photo montage,” Lukas said via email. “Since I’m the owner of spacexstats.com, I already had all the launch images and assets necessary to produce it, stored locally on my computer. Using Adobe Photoshop, the whole process took just over an hour, from a blank canvas to the final image – and didn’t require much more than layer masks and guides to create. I then submitted it to /r/SpaceX & /r/space on Reddit, where it (quite surprisingly) managed to generate over 1,300,000 views in less than 24 hours.”

He added that he does plan on producing similar SpaceX graphics and perhaps updating this one in the future, “although I fear at SpaceX’s recent launch cadence, it’ll become unsuitably wide at some point!” he said.

Be sure to click on the image above to see the full resolution size.

Thanks to Lukas for sharing his montage with Universe Today.

Awesome Video of a Satellite in Orbit

Here’s a great video from a camera mounted on the exterior of the TechDemoSat-1, an in-orbit technology demonstration mission from the UK. It launched on July 8, 2014 on a Soyuz-2, and the video shows the satellite moments after separation from the upper stage. The satellite even took a selfie, below.

The video shows the satellite’s rotation and reveals a spectacular vista of “blue marble” Earth (visible is cloudy skies over the Pacific, south of French Polynesia).

It’s interesting to note that some identified flying objects zip past the field of view: At :25 seconds, the Fregat upper stage of the Soyuz-2 rocket appears as a gold object passing away from the satellite left to right at a distance of approximately 60 meters. At :34 seconds a white “dot” crosses the frame left to right – which has been identified as one of the other satellites that shared the ride into orbit with TechDemoSat-1.

“It is very rare to see actual footage of our satellites in orbit,” said Sir Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), the company behind the mission, “and so viewing the video taken from TechDemoSat-1 moments after separation from the rocket has been a hugely rewarding and exciting experience for everyone at SSTL. We are delighted with the progress of commissioning the TechDemoSat-1 platform, and are looking forward to the next phase – the demonstration of a range of new technologies being flown on this innovative mission.”

The satellite is roughly the size of a refrigerator but wieghs just 150kg. TechDemoSat (TDS-1) carries eight separate payloads from UK academia and industry plus other payloads from SSTL for product development. Find out more here from SSTL.

45 Years Ago Today: Relive the Historic Apollo 11 Launch

45 years ago today — on July 16th, 1969 — the Apollo 11 crew left Earth for the first human mission to land on the Moon. Launching on at Saturn V rocket from Cape Kennedy, the mission sent Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit, and then two hours and 44 minutes after launch, another burn of the engines put Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit.

If you want to re-live the launch and the mission, there are several ways you can participate. We’ve included here a few different replays of the launch, varying from a quick recap to a detailed look at the launch itself. Above is the newscast of the launch from CBS news with Walter Cronkite, and we’ve got more below.

Also below is information on several webcasts and other events that NASA has planned to commemorate the anniversary.

Here’s a detailed look at the launch in ultra-slow motion, with narration:

Here is some remastered high definition footage from NASA of the Apollo 11 launch, but there’s no audio.

And here’s a quick look at the entire Apollo 11 mission, all in just 100 seconds from Spacecraft Films:

Here are some ways to participate in the anniversary:

On Twitter, @ReliveApollo11 from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is reliving the highlights from Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in “real time” 45 years later.

Also @NASAHistory is tweeting images and events from the mission, and journalist Amy Shira Teitel (@astVintageSpace ) is tweeting out some interesting pictures, facts and quotes from the mission, in “real time” (again 45 years later).

To join the ongoing conversation on social media about the anniversary and NASA’s deep space exploration plans, use the hashtags #NextGiantLeap and #Apollo45.

On Friday, July 18 at 10:30 a.m. PDT (1:30 p.m. EDT), NASA TV will air a live conversation about the future of space exploration with actor, director and narrator Morgan Freeman. He will speak at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, about his personal vision for space. The event also will include NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman participating from the International Space Station.

If you don’t have NASA TV on your cable or satellite feeds, you can watch online here.

Also on Friday at 3:30 p.m. EDT, NASA will host a discussion with Buzz Aldrin and astronaut Mike Massimino at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York during the Intrepid Space and Science Festival. NASA also will have exhibits and activities at the festival Thursday, July 17 through Saturday, July 19. There’s more information about the festival here.

On Sunday, July 20 at 7:39 p.m. PDT (10:39 p.m. EDT), when Armstrong opened the spacecraft hatch to begin the first spacewalk on the moon, NASA TV will replay the restored footage of Armstrong and Aldrin’s historic steps on the lunar surface.

On Monday, July 21 at 7 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. EDT) from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA TV will air live coverage of the renaming of the center’s Operations and Checkout Building in honor of Armstrong, who passed away in 2012. The renaming ceremony will include NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Kennedy Center Director Robert Cabana, Apollo 11’s Collins, Aldrin and astronaut Jim Lovell, who was the mission’s back-up commander. International Space Station NASA astronauts Wiseman and Steve Swanson, who is the current station commander, also will take part in the ceremony from their orbiting laboratory 260 miles above Earth.

Kennedy’s Operations and Checkout Building has played a vital role in NASA’s spaceflight history. It was used during the Apollo program to process and test the command, service and lunar modules. Today, the facility is being used to process and assemble NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which the agency will use to send astronauts to an asteroid in the 2020s and Mars in the 2030s.

On Thursday, July 24 at 3 p.m. PDT (6 p.m. EDT), which is the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s return to Earth, the agency will host a panel discussion — called NASA’s Next Giant Leap — from Comic-Con International in San Diego. Moderated by actor Seth Green, the panel includes Aldrin, NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green, JPL systems engineer Bobak Ferdowsi, and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who will talk about Orion and the Space Launch System rocket, which will carry humans on America’s next great adventure in space.

The NASA.gov website will host features, videos, and historic images and audio clips that highlight the Apollo 11 anniversary, as well as the future of human spaceflight. Find it all here.

Also, the Slooh telescope team will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing with a high-definition broadcast of the lunar surface on Sunday, July 20th starting at 5:30 PM PDT / 8:30 PM EDT / 00:30 UTC (7/21) – (check International Times here) Slooh will broadcast the event live from a special feed located in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Viewers can watch the event unfold free on Slooh.com, or in the webcast below. The image stream will be accompanied by discussions led by Slooh host, Geoff Fox, Slooh astronomer, Bob Berman, Slooh Observatory Engineer, Paul Cox, along with numerous special guests, including documentary filmmaker, Duncan Copp, and science journalist, Andrew Chaikin. Viewers can follow updates on the show by using the hashtag #SloohApollo11.

SpaceX Launches Six Commercial Satellites on Falcon 9; Landing Test Ends in “Kaboom”

SpaceX successfully launched six ORBCOMM advanced telecommunications satellites into orbit on Monday, July 14, to significantly upgrade the speed and capacity of their existing data relay network. The launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida had been delayed or scrubbed several times since the original launch date in May due to varying problems from payload integration issues, weather conditions and issues with the Falcon 9 rocket. But the launch went off without a hitch today and ORBCOMM reports that all six satellites have been successfully deployed in orbit.

SpaceX also used this launch opportunity to try and test the reusability of the Falcon 9’s first stage and its landing system while splashing down in the ocean. However, the booster did not survive the splashdown. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reported that the rocket booster reentry, landing burn and leg deployment worked well, the hull of the first stage “lost integrity right after splashdown (aka kaboom),” Musk tweeted. “Detailed review of rocket telemetry needed to tell if due to initial splashdown or subsequent tip over and body slam.”

SpaceX wanted to test the “flyback” ability to the rocket, slowing down the descent of the rocket with thrusters and deploying the landing legs for future launches so the first stage can be re-used. These tests have the booster “landing” in the ocean. The previous test of the landing system was successful, but the choppy seas destroyed the stage and prevented recovery. Today’s “kaboom” makes recovery of even pieces of this booster unlikely.

As far as the ORBCOMM satellites, the six satellites launched today are the first part of what the company hopes will be a 17-satellite constellation. They hope to have all 17 satellites in orbit by the end of the 2014.

Timelapse: Watch the Antares Rocket Go Vertical on the Launch Pad

Now standing at attention, ready for duty! At about 3:30 p.m. on July 10, Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket was raised to its vertical position at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Launch Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Antares is carrying the Cygnus spacecraft loaded with 3,293 pounds (1,494 kg) of supplies for the International Space Station. The craft is scheduled to launch Saturday, July 12 at 1:14 p.m. EDT. UPDATE: Orbital Sciences Corp. has postponed the launch of its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station until 12:52 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 13, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Severe weather in the Wallops area has repeatedly interrupted Orbital’s operations schedule leading up to the launch.

If you live in the Eastern seaboard area, you might be able to see the launch. Find out how in our detailed article about the launch. This is the second flight to the ISS for the Antares/Cygnus duo.