Weekly Space Hangout – March 27, 2015: Dark Matter Galaxy “X” with Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)
Special Guest: Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti, Lead Investigator for team that may have discovered Dark Matter Galaxy “X”.

Guests:
Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg )
Dave Dickinson (@astroguyz / www.astroguyz.com)
Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein)
Continue reading “Weekly Space Hangout – March 27, 2015: Dark Matter Galaxy “X” with Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti”

Historic 1 Year ISS Mission with Kelly and Kornienko Launches Today – Watch Live

Soyuz Spacecraft Rolled Out For Launch of One-Year Crew
The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is seen after having rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in the Soyuz at 3:42 p.m. EDT, Friday, March 27 (March 28, Kazakh time). Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Watch live on NASA TV link below[/caption]

At long last, the first ever crew embarking on a 1 year mission to the International Space Station (ISS) – comprising NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko (both veterans) – is slated for blastoff just hours from now aboard a Soyuz capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

The history making launch is scheduled for 3:42 p.m. EDT/1942 GMT Friday, March 27 (March 28, Kazakh time) – with veteran Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka rounding out the three man crew of Expedition 43.

The Soyuz spacecraft and rocket have been rolled out to the launch pad for the one-year crew. The crew is boarding the Soyuz.

You can watch the launch live on NASA TV today. Click on this link: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html

NASA TV live launch coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. EDT.

NASA's Scott @StationCDRKelly with his #Exp43 crew heading for suit up and launch. Credit: NASA
NASA’s Scott @StationCDRKelly with his #Exp43 crew heading for suit up and launch. Credit: NASA

The crew will rendezvous and dock at the ISS at the Poisk module around 9:36 p.m EDT – only about four orbits and six hours after liftoff.

Hatch opening is schedule for about 11:15 p.m. EDT this evening.

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko comprise  the first ever ISS 1 Year Crew
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko comprise the first ever ISS 1 Year Crew

The one-year mission represents concrete first steps toward start fulfilling NASA’s “Journey to Mars” objective and sending “Humans to Mars” in the 2030s.

“The one-year mission in space, tests the limits of human research, space exploration and the human spirit,” says NASA.

The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly, and Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko, and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are scheduled to launch to the ISS on March 27, 2015.  Credit NASA/Bill Ingalls
The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly, and Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko, and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are scheduled to launch to the ISS on March 27, 2015. Credit NASA/Bill Ingalls

The pathfinding mission is about double the normal time of most expeditions to the Earth orbiting space station, which last four to six months.

The goal is to provide critical knowledge to NASA and researchers hoping to better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to long-duration spaceflight.

The 1 Year mission will provide baseline knowledge to NASA and its station partners – Roscosmos, ESA, CSA, JAXA – on how to prepare to send humans on lengthy deep space mission to Mars and other destinations into our Solar System.

Astronaut Scott Kelly will become the first American to live and work aboard the orbiting laboratory for a year-long mission and set a new American record.

Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonauts Kornienko and Padalka are all veteran spacefliers.

They have been in training for over two years since being selected in Nov. 2012.

No American has ever spent anywhere near a year in space. 4 Russian cosmonauts conducted long duration stays of about a year or more in space aboard the Mir Space Station in the 1980s and 1990s.

Kelly and Kornienko will stay aboard the ISS until March 3, 2016, when they return to Earth on the Soyuz TMA-18M after 342 days in space. Kelly’s combined total of 522 days in space, will enable him to surpass current U.S. record holder Mike Fincke’s mark of 382 days.

Padalka will return in September after a six month stint, making him the world’s most experienced spaceflyer with a combined five mission total of 878 days in space.

They will conduct hundreds of science experiments focusing on at least 7 broad areas of investigation including medical, psychological and biomedical challenges faced by astronauts during long-duration space flight.

1 Year crew awaits launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft on March 27, 2015. Credit: NASA
1 Year crew awaits launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft on March 27, 2015. Credit: NASA

Kelly is a veteran NASA Space Shuttle commander who has previously flown to space aboard both the Shuttle and Soyuz. He also served as a space station commander during a previous six-month stay onboard.

Kelly was recently featured in a cover story at Time magazine.

Here’s an online link to the Time magazine story : http://ti.me/1w25Qgo

@TIME features @StationCDRKelly ‘s 1-year-long mission in it’s 2015: Year Ahead issue. http://ti.me/1w25Qgo
@TIME features @StationCDRKelly ‘s 1-year-long mission in it’s 2015: Year Ahead issue. http://ti.me/1w25Qgo

President Obama gave a shout out to NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and his upcoming 1 year mission to the International Space Station (ISS) at the 2015 State of the Union address to the US Congress on Tuesday evening, Jan. 20, 2015.

Kelly’s flight will pave the way for NASA’s goal to send astronaut crews to Mars by the 2030s. They will launch in the Orion crew vehicle atop the agencies mammoth new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, simultaneously under development.

Read my coverage of Orion and SLS progress to stay up to date – including first hand from onsite at the Kennedy Space Center press site for the launch of Orion EFT-1 on Dec. 5, 2015.

Good luck and Godspeed to Kelly, Kornienko and Padalka – starting on the road to Mars !!

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly stands as he is recognized by President Barack Obama, while First lady Michelle Obama, front left, and other guest applaud, during the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 20, 2015. This March, Astronaut Scott Kelly will launch to the International Space Station and become the first American to live and work aboard the orbiting laboratory for a year-long mission. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly stands as he is recognized by President Barack Obama, while First lady Michelle Obama, front left, and other guest applaud, during the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 20, 2015. This March, Astronaut Scott Kelly will launch to the International Space Station and become the first American to live and work aboard the orbiting laboratory for a year-long mission. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
NASA’s first Orion spacecraft blasts off at 7:05 a.m. atop United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy Booster at Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 5, 2014.   Launch pad remote camera view.   Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
NASA’s first Orion spacecraft blasts off at 7:05 a.m. atop United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy Booster at Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 5, 2014. Launch pad remote camera view. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Gorgeous Sunrises, Auroras, Landscapes, and More from Space Station Crew

The Expedition 42 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) continues to delight us with stunning views of ‘Our Beautiful Earth from Space.’

Here’s a collection of a few of the newest sunrises, auroras, landscapes, nightlights, and more snapshots from the multinational crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts living and working aboard the ISS orbiting some 250 miles (400 kilometers) overhead.

And don’t forget that at sunset tonight (Feb. 8), a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is due to blastoff at 6:10 p.m., EST, if all goes well carrying the DSCOVR space weather satellite about a million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away to the L1 Lagrange point.

The Falcon 9 will blastoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, pictured below:

From Key West to the Gulf of Mexico and #Atlanta, a very nice, clear, half moonlit night.  Credit: NASA/Terry Virts.   KSC and Cape Canaveral launch pads along Florida east coast at right.
From Key West to the Gulf of Mexico and #Atlanta, a very nice, clear, half moonlit night. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts.
KSC and Cape Canaveral launch pads along Florida east coast at right.

Tens of millions of you are included in the lead sunrise photo of the U.S. East Coast – taken by ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti perched aboard the orbiting lab complex.

And here’s a “speechless sunrise” taken today by NASA astronaut Terry Virts. We agree!

#speechless from this #sunrise.   Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
#speechless from this #sunrise. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
Always happy to see this lovely sight that has become familiar in #Patagonia.  Credit: NASA/ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti
Always happy to see this lovely sight that has become familiar in #Patagonia. Credit: NASA/ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti
This, on the contrary, I've seen only once: the Strait of Magellan and la Tierra del Fuego free of clouds!  Credit: NASA/ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti
This, on the contrary, I’ve seen only once: the Strait of Magellan and la Tierra del Fuego free of clouds! Credit: NASA/ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti
#Moscow shining like a bright star under the aurora.    Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
#Moscow shining like a bright star under the aurora. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
#aurora over Anchorage and Fairbanks #Alaska.   Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
#aurora over Anchorage and Fairbanks #Alaska. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts

The current six person crew includes astronauts and cosmonauts from three nations; America, Russia and Italy including four men and two women serving aboard the massive orbiting lab complex.

They comprise Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts from NASA, Samantha Cristoforetti from the European Space Agency (ESA) and cosmonauts Aleksandr Samokutyayev, Yelena Serova, and Anton Shkaplerov from Russia.

Brazilian clouds showing off their #majesty.  Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
Brazilian clouds showing off their #majesty. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
L+72/73: Logbook. Wow, this has been a busy week! But we can still catch up a little bit...  ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
L+72/73: Logbook. Wow, this has been a busy week! But we can still catch up a little bit… ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti

L+72/73: Logbook. Wow, this has been a busy week! But we can still catch up a little bit… ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
….https://plus.google.com/app/basic/stream/z12iczzoqovhfdo2z23odnbwmz3cir0ox04?cbp=1hmsp4t51xmr3&sview=27&cid=5&soc-app=115&soc-platform=1&spath=%2Fapp%2Fbasic%2F%2BSamanthaCristoforetti%2Fposts …

Soyuz- everyone’s ride to space and back!

#soyuz #earth #beauty.  Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
#soyuz #earth #beauty. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

'I wish I could bring all of you up to see this!'  Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
‘I wish I could bring all of you up to see this!’ Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
ISS Expedition 42. Credit: NASA/ESA/Roscosmos
ISS Expedition 42. Credit: NASA/ESA/Roscosmos

NASA, Boeing, and SpaceX to Launch 1st Commercial Crew Ships to Space Station in 2017

After a hiatus of six long years, US astronauts will finally launch to space in a revolutionary new pair of private crew capsules under development by Boeing and SpaceX, starting in 2017, that will end our sole source reliance on the Russians for launching our astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

Two years from now, crews will start flying to space aboard the first US commercial spaceships, launching atop US rockets from US soil, said officials from Boeing, SpaceX, and NASA at a joint news conference on Monday, Jan. 26. The human rated spaceships – also known as “space taxis” – are being designed and manufactured under the auspices of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

A two person mixed crew of NASA astronauts and company test pilots will fly on the first test flights going to the space station in 2017.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, underway since 2010, has been to develop safe, reliable, and cost-effective spaceships that will ferry astronauts to and from the massive orbiting lab complex.

“It’s an incredible testament to American ingenuity and know-how, and an extraordinary validation of the vision we laid out just a few years ago as we prepared for the long-planned retirement of the space shuttle,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden during the briefing at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Bolden is a four time veteran space shuttle astronaut.

“This work is part of a vital strategy to equip our nation with the technologies for the future and inspire a new generation of explorers to take the next giant leap for America.”

NASA's Stephanie Schierholz introduces the panel of Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, seated, left, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders, Boeing's John Elbon, SpaceX's Gwynne Shotwell and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke.  Credit:  NASA TV
NASA’s Stephanie Schierholz introduces the panel of Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, seated, left, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders, Boeing’s John Elbon, SpaceX’s Gwynne Shotwell, and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke at Jan. 26 commercial crew new conference. Credit: NASA TV

“We have been working overtime to get Americans back to space from US soil and end US reliance on Russia,” Bolden added. “My job is to ensure we get Americans back to space as soon as possible and safely.”

“We have been in-sourcing space jobs back to the US.”

“To do this we need for Congress to approve full funding for the Commercial Crew Program!”

“This and the ISS are a springboard to going beyond Earth. All this we are doing will enable us to get Humans to Mars!”

However – severe budget cuts by Congress forced NASA into a two year delay in the first commercial crew flights from 2015 to 2017 – and also forced NASA to pay hundreds of millions of more dollars to the Russians for crews seats instead of employing American aerospace workers.

On Sept. 16, 2014, Administrator Bolden announced that Boeing and SpaceX had won the high stakes and history making NASA competition to build the first ever private “space taxis” to launch American and partner astronauts to the ISS and restore America’s capability to launch our crews from American soil for the first time since 2011.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (left) announces the winners of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program development effort to build America’s next human spaceships launching from Florida to the International Space Station. Speaking from Kennedy’s Press Site, Bolden announced the contract award to Boeing and SpaceX to complete the design of the CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft. Former astronaut Bob Cabana, center, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Kathy Lueders, manager of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, and former International Space Station Commander Mike Fincke also took part in the announcement. Credit: Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (left) announces the winners of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program development effort to build America’s next human spaceships launching from Florida to the International Space Station. Speaking from Kennedy’s Press Site, Bolden announced the contract award to Boeing and SpaceX to complete the design of the CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft. Former astronaut Bob Cabana, center, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Kathy Lueders, manager of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, and former International Space Station Commander Mike Fincke also took part in the announcement. Credit: Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com

During the Sept. 16 briefing at the Kennedy Space Center, Bolden announced at that time that contracts worth a total of $6.8 Billion were awarded to Boeing to build the manned CST-100 and to SpaceX to build the manned Dragon V2.

Boeing was awarded the larger share of the crew vehicle contract valued at $4.2 Billion while SpaceX was awarded a lesser amount valued at $2.6 Billion.

For extensive further details about Boeing’s CST-100 manned capsule, be sure to read my exclusive 2 part interview with Chris Ferguson, NASA’s final shuttle commander and now Boeing’s Commercial Crew Director: here and here.

And read about my visit to the full scale CST-100 mockup at its manufacturing facility at KSC – here and here.

B8SsB9UCQAElkbJ.jpg large

But the awards were briefly put on hold when the third bidder, Sierra Nevada Corp, protested the decision and thereby prevented NASA from discussing the awards until the issue was resolved by the General Accounting Office (GAO) earlier this month in favor of NASA.

Everyone involved is now free to speak about the awards and how they were decided.

Each company must successfully achieve a set of 10 vehicle and program milestones agreed to with NASA, as well as meeting strict certification and safety standards.

“There are launch pads out there already being upgraded and there is hardware already being delivered,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of the Kennedy Space Center-based Commercial Crew Program.

“Both companies have already accomplished their first milestones.”

Every American astronaut has been totally reliant on the Russians and their three person Soyuz capsules for seats to launch to the ISS since the forced retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle program in July 2011 following the final blastoff of orbiter Atlantis on the STS-135 mission.

Under the latest crew flight deal signed with Roscosmos [the Russian Federal Space Agency], each astronaut seat costs over $70 million.

“I don’t ever want to have to write another check to Roscosmos after 2017, hopefully,” said Bolden.

Under NASA’s commercial crew contracts, the average cost to fly US astronauts on the Dragon and CST-100 is $58 million vs. over $70 million on the Russian Soyuz.

At the briefing, Bolden indicated he was hopeful Congress would be more supportive of the program in the coming 2016 budget cycle than in the past that has already resulted in a 2 year delay in the first flights.

“Congress has started to understand the critical importance of commercial crew and cargo. They’ve seen, as a result of the performance of our providers, that this is not a hoax, it’s not a myth, it’s not a dream,” said Bolden.

“It’s something that’s really happening. I am optimistic that the Congress will accept the President’s proposal for commercial crew for 2016.”

The first unmanned test flights of the SpaceX Dragon V2 and Boeing CST-100 could take place by late 2016 or early 2017 respectively. Manned flights to the ISS would follow soon thereafter by the spring and summer of 2017.

Asked at the Jan. 26 briefing if he would fly aboard the private space ships, Administrator Bolden said:

“Yes. I can tell you that I would hop in a Dragon or a CST-100 in a heartbeat.”

Hatch opening to Boeing’s commercial CST-100 crew transporter.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
Hatch opening to Boeing’s commercial CST-100 crew transporter. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Boeing’s plans for the CST-100 involve conducting a pad abort test in February 2017, followed by an uncrewed orbital flight test in April 2017, and then a crewed flight with a Boeing test pilot and a NASA astronaut in July 2017, as outlined at the briefing by John Elbon, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Space Exploration division.

“It’s a very exciting time with alot in development on the ISS, SLS, and Commercial Crew. Never before in the history of human spaceflight has there been so much going on all at once,” said John Elbon. “NASA’s exploring places we didn’t even know existed 100 years ago.”

“We are building the CST-100 structural test article.”

Meet Dragon V2 - SpaceX CEO Elon pulls the curtain off manned Dragon V2 on May 29, 2014 for worldwide unveiling of SpaceX's new astronaut transporter for NASA. Credit: SpaceX
Meet Dragon V2 – SpaceX CEO Elon pulls the curtain off manned Dragon V2 on May 29, 2014, for worldwide unveiling of SpaceX’s new astronaut transporter for NASA. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s plans for the Dragon V2 were outlined by Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX.

“The Dragon V2 builds on the cargo Dragon. First up is a pad abort in about a month [at Cape Canaveral], then an in-flight abort test later this year [at Vandenberg to finish up development work from the prior CCiCAP phase],” said Shotwell.

“An uncrewed flight test is planned for late 2016 followed by a crewed flight test in early 2017.”

“We understand the incredible responsibility we’ve been given to carry crew. We should fly over 50 Falcon 9’s before crewed flight.”

Both the Boeing CST 100 and SpaceX Dragon V2 will launch from the Florida Space Coast, home to all US astronaut flights since the dawn of the space age.

The Boeing CST-100 will launch atop a human rated United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

The SpaceX Dragon will launch atop a human rated Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket from neighboring Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Boeing’s commercial CST-100 'Space Taxi' will carry a crew of five astronauts to low Earth orbit and the ISS from US soil.   Mockup with astronaut mannequins seated below pilot console and Samsung tablets was unveiled on June 9, 2014 at its planned manufacturing facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
Boeing’s commercial CST-100 “Space Taxi” will carry a crew of five astronauts to low Earth orbit and the ISS from US soil. Mockup with astronaut mannequins seated below pilot console and Samsung tablets was unveiled on June 9, 2014, at its planned manufacturing facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
A look through the open hatch of the Dragon V2 reveals the layout and interior of the seven-crew capacity spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
A look through the open hatch of the Dragon V2 reveals the layout and interior of the seven-crew capacity spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

Rocket Remains? Video Shows ‘Pieces Of Whatever’ Flaming High Above Belgrade

Just before dawn on Wednesday (Nov. 26), a pilot in Belgrade caught this stunning video of a “huge number of glowing pieces of whatever” breaking up in the atmosphere above.

You know what this is? A rocket, most likely! It’s the upper stage for the Soyuz that launched three people to space on Sunday (Nov. 23), the European Space Agency says.

Continue reading “Rocket Remains? Video Shows ‘Pieces Of Whatever’ Flaming High Above Belgrade”

Busy Spaceport: There are Now Five Spaceships Parked at the Space Station

Mars isn’t the only place in the Solar System that was busy this week with arriving spacecraft. While NASA’s MAVEN and ISRO’s MOM arrived in orbit around the Red Planet, the International Space Station also welcomed two arriving spacecraft, bringing the total of docked ships at the ISS to five.

Screenshot from NASA TV of the Soyuz-TMA14M arriving with just one solar panel deployed.
Screenshot from NASA TV of the Soyuz-TMA14M arriving with just one solar panel deployed.

Last night, the Expedition 41/42 crew arrived — peeling in on one solar panel on their Soyuz TMA-14M — with the first female cosmonaut to be part of an ISS crew, Elena Serova along with her crewmates cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev, and NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore. They took the Soyuz “fast track,” arriving at the station in just under six hours after launch. One of the craft’s solar panels jammed and couldn’t deploy, but the crew docked to Poisk docking compartment without indecent.

The arrival of Wilmore, Samokutyaev and Serova returns the station’s crew complement to six. Already on board are Commander Max Suraev of Roscosmos, Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency. They have been aboard the complex since May.

Suraev, Wiseman and Gerst will return home in November. At that time, Wilmore will become commander of the station for Expedition 42, and the remainder of the Expedition 42 crew will arrive in a new Soyuz.

Earlier this week, on September 23, the SpaceX Dragon capsule arrived with over 2.5 tons of science experiments and supplies for the crew.

Also docked to the space station is the Soyuz ship that will take Suraev, Wiseman and Gerst home, a Progress resupply ship and the European ATV-5 supply ship.

There are two more cargo missions targeted to launch to the space station before the end of the year. Orbital Sciences just announced October 20 as the next launch date for their Cygnus commercial space freighter. It will occupy the same Harmony node port as Dragon when it leaves in a few weeks. When Cygnus vacates the Harmony node port, SpaceX CRS-5 will replace it in December.

Astronaut Snaps Amazing Picture Of His Crewmates Returning To Earth

Wow! See that bright streak in the photo above? That’s a shot of the Expedition 40 crew making a flawless return from the International Space Station yesterday (Sept. 10) … a shot taken from space itself.

“Our view of the picture perfect reentry of TMA-12M,” wrote Expedition 41 astronaut Reid Wiseman, who just hours before bid farewell to Steve Swanson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos). The re-entry was in fact so perfect that TV cameras caught the parachute immediately after deployment, which doesn’t always happen.

As you can see in the video replay below, the Soyuz made a bulls-eye landing near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan at 10:23 p.m. EDT (2:23 a.m. UTC). There are now only three people tending to the space station until the rest of the Expedition 41 crew launches, which is expected to happen Sept. 25.

Rocket ‘Anomaly’ Blamed For Putting European Navigation Satellites Into Wrong Orbits

An independent investigation committee is looking at why two European navigation satellites are in the wrong orbits following their launch from French Guiana last week.

While the first part of the launch went well, officials said telemetry from the satellites showed that the satellites were not where they were supposed to be. The probe is ongoing, but officials believe it is related to a stage of the Soyuz rocket that hefted the satellites into space.

“According to the initial analyses, an anomaly is thought to have occurred during the flight phase involving the Fregat upper stage, causing the satellites to be injected into a noncompliant orbit,” wrote launch provider Arianespace in an update on Saturday (Aug. 23).

Artist's conception of the completed Galileo navigation satellite system. Credit: ESA-P. Carril
Artist’s conception of the completed Galileo navigation satellite system. Credit: ESA-P. Carril

The same day, the European Space Agency added that officials are looking into how the mission would be affected, if at all.

The Galileo satellites, the fifth and sixth of the constellation, are intended to serve as part of a cloud of navigation satellites that would be a European alternative to the United States GPS system. Officials are hoping to launch six to eight more satellites per year until 2017, when 24 satellites and six backups will be ready for full service.

The satellites were supposed to be in a circular orbit, inclined at 55 degrees to the Earth’s equator and have a maximum orbital radius (semi-major axis) of 29,900 km (18,579 miles). Telemetry now shows the satellites are in a non-circular orbit inclined at 49.8 degrees, with a semi-major axis of 26,200 km (16,280 miles).

Spectacular Southern Lights, Shooting Stars, Sahara Snapshots and more from ESA’s Alexander Gerst aboard ISS

Spectacular snapshots of the Southern Lights, Shooting Stars, the Sahara Desert and much more are streaming back from space to Earth courtesy of Alexander Gerst, ESA’s German astronaut currently serving aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

See a gallery of Alex’s stunning space-based views (sagenhafte Weltraum bilder) collected herein – starting with the auroral fireworks seen from space – above. It coincides with the Earth-based fireworks of America’s 4th of July Independence Day weekend celebrations and spectacular Noctilucent Clouds (NLCs) wafting over the Northern Hemisphere. NLC gallery here.

“Saw a beautiful Southern Light last night. I so wish you could see this with your own eyes!” Alex tweeted in English.

Gerst is posting his Earth & space imagery from the ISS on a variety of social media including Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and his ESA astronaut blog bilingually in English and German.

Another new snapshot of Earth’s “beautiful Southern Lights”  taken from the ISS on 5 July 2014. Credit: ESA/Alexander Gerst
Another new snapshot of Earth’s “beautiful Southern Lights” taken from the ISS on 5 July 2014. Credit: ESA/Alexander Gerst

“Habe gestern ein wunderschönes Südlicht gesehen. Ich wünschte ihr könntet das mit eigenen Augen sehen!” Alex tweeted in German.

Check out Alexander Gerst’s stunning 1st timelapse video from the ISS:

Video Caption: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst’s first timelapse from the International Space Station features the first shooting star that he saw from above. Made by stitching together over 250 images this short clip shows the beauty of our world and the space around it. Published on July 5, 2014. Credit: ESA/Alexander Gerst

Gerst launched to the ISS on his rookie space flight on May 28, 2014 aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule along with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman.

ISS Expedition 40 patch
ISS Expedition 40 patch

The trio are members of Expeditions 40 and 41 and joined three more station flyers already aboard – cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov & Oleg Artemyev and astronaut Steve Swanson – to bring the station crew complement to six.

Alex will spend six months on the ISS for ESA’s Blue Dot mission. He is Germany’s third astronaut to visit the ISS. He is trained as a geophysicist and a volcanologist.

Gerst also has practiced and honed another talent – space barber! He shaved the heads of his two American crew mates – to match his bald head – after winning a friendly wager with them when Germany beat the US in a 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 26.

Here’s several of Alexander Gerst’s newest views of the Sahara Desert and more.

“Even from space, the Sahara looks dry! Sogar vom Weltraum aus, sieht die Sahara trocken aus!” Taken from the ISS on 6 July 2014. Credit: ESA/Alexander Gerst
“Even from space, the Sahara looks dry! Sogar vom Weltraum aus, sieht die Sahara trocken aus!” Taken from the ISS on 6 July 2014. Credit: ESA/Alexander Gerst
“Harsh land. Windswept valleys in northern Africa. Hartes Land. Windgefraeste Taeler in Nordafrika.” Taken from the ISS on 6 July 2014. Credit: ESA/Alexander Gerst
“Harsh land. Windswept valleys in northern Africa. Hartes Land. Windgefraeste Taeler in Nordafrika.” Taken from the ISS on 6 July 2014. Credit: ESA/Alexander Gerst
“Sometimes our atmosphere looks incredibly complex and three-dimensional, sometimes you don't even see it. Manchmal schaut unsere Atmosphäre unglaublich Komplex und dreidimensional aus, manchmal fast unsichtbar.”  Taken from the ISS on 5 July 2014. Credit: ESA/Alexander Gerst
“Sometimes our atmosphere looks incredibly complex and three-dimensional, sometimes you don’t even see it. Manchmal schaut unsere Atmosphäre unglaublich Komplex und dreidimensional aus, manchmal fast unsichtbar.” Taken from the ISS on 5 July 2014. Credit: ESA/Alexander Gerst
Antarctic aurora.  The Antarctic aurora, photographed by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and posted on social media with the comment: "Antarctic Aurora fleeing from  sunrise. I have rarely seen something more magical in my life!" Credits: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst
Antarctic aurora. The Antarctic aurora, photographed by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and posted on social media with the comment: “Antarctic Aurora fleeing from sunrise. I have rarely seen something more magical in my life!” Credits: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing ISS, OCO-2, GPM, Curiosity, Opportunity, Orion, SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital Sciences, MAVEN, MOM, Mars and more Earth & Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

…………….

Learn more about Orbital Sciences Antares ISS launch on July 11 from NASA Wallops, VA, and more about SpaceX, Boeing, commercial space, NASA’s Mars missions and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations.

July 10/11: “Antares/Cygnus ISS Launch from Virginia” & “Space mission updates”; Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA, evening