New radar technique locates lost Indian Lunar orbiter, NASA probe.

Using previously untested radar techniques, NASA has successfully located two Lunar-orbiting spacecraft, one of which has not been tracked since 2009.

Scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California beamed high energy microwaves at the Moon from the Goldstone Deep Space Communications complex in California. The waves bounced off the Moon and were picked up by the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. By using the return signal to estimate velocity and distance, JPL scientists were able to locate NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – which is still operating and is currently tracked by the agency.

However, the team also located India’s derelict Chandrayaan-1orbiter whose mission ended in 2009. Due to regions of the lunar surface with a stronger gravitational pull than others – known as mascons – the spacecraft’s orbit could have been radically altered or it could have even crashed into the moon.

Since the spacecraft was known to be in a Lunar polar orbit, the team directed the microwave beam just above the Lunar north pole and hoped the spacecraft would intercept it. The returned beam picked had a radar signature in accordance to what a small spacecraft wold be expected to make. Furthermore, during the four hours the Chandrayaan-1 test took place, the spacecraft crossed the beam twice in the amount of time it was predicted to make a single orbit and return to the same point. Due to the varying strength of the Moon’s gravity over regions of different composition – known as mascons – the spacecraft’s location had to be shifted by nearly 180 degrees.

Scientists were not certain if the tests, which occurred in July 2016, would be successful. Although interplanetary radar has been used to track asteroids millions of miles away using the same technique to locate a small satellite around the moon was untried. The technology demonstrated could be useful in planning future lunar missions. The Indian Space Research Organization has no intention to reactivate the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, whose mission ended in 2009.  Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first Lunar mission, launching in October 2008.


Astronaut Alan L. Bean, Lunar Module pilot for the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission, holds a container filled with lunar soil collected while exploring the lunar surface. Astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr., commander, who took this picture, is reflected in the helmet visor.

Credits: NASA

SpaceX announces two-person mission around the Moon in 2018.

Humans may once again travel from the Earth to the Moon according to the latest announcement by SpaceX. Elon Musk, in a teleconference arranged with less than 24-hours notice, stated Monday afternoon, February 27, that the company intends to send two private citizens on a circumlunar voyage sometime in late 2018.

The week-long mission would see the travelers in a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a free-return trajectory around the Moon, ultimately reaching a distance of 397,600 miles before returning to the Earth. Dragon would launch atop a Falcon Heavy rocket from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center – the same launch pad where the original Lunar missions departed from in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Musk stated that the individuals, which have not been identified yet, will begin health and fitness training later this year. SpaceX was approached by the two individuals for the mission and placed a “significant deposit” on the flight.

He also did not disclose the exact amount the mission would cost but stated that the individual price of each lunar seat was “on par” with what NASA is currently paying Russia to transport their astronauts to the ISS on Soyuz vehicles. These seats are around $80 million dollars per person per flight.

“I think this should be a really exciting mission that gets the world really excited about sending people into deep space again,” Musk said. “I think it should be super inspirational.”

SpaceX’s goal of a Lunar Dragon flight is within the realm of technical possibility for the company, though there are still significant hurdles to overcome. Crew Dragon’s systems will not require many significant modifications as the capsule was designed for interplanetary travel from the beginning. The PICA-X heat shield is capable of withstanding the intense heat generated upon reentering the Earth’s atmosphere at lunar velocities of 32,000 miles per hour. Only the spacecraft’s communications systems will have to be significantly modified to allow for the greater distance between the spacecraft and receiving stations on the ground.

Falcon Heavy is scheduled to make its first demonstration mission in the summer of 2017, and the first Crew Dragon is slated for an uncrewed flight test later in 2017. Flights with astronauts on board are not planned until March 2018, when the first crewed missions to the International Space Station are scheduled to begin. SpaceX hopes that if this timetable holds, the data and experience gathered through these initial flights into Low Earth Orbit will be sufficient for the circumlunar mission in late 2018.

SpaceX’s announcement has come less than two weeks after NASA’s announcement that the agency is considering adding astronauts to the first flight of its Space launch System rocket in early 2019 on a flight known as Exploration Mission 1. EM-1 will see an Orion capsule make a circumlunar flight on a mission also lasting around a week.

Private citizens paying for flights aboard Crew Dragon has not been publicly considered by SpaceX before, though Musk stated that multiple others have approached the company in recent months for possible trips into space. Musk hinted that the company could take in around 12% of their budget if it sold some flights to public customers.

P/C: SpaceNews

Space X Plans a Private Mission for Two Around the Moon

This has become quite the month for space related announcements!

Yesterday, Elon Musk teased that his agency SpaceX would be making an announcement this afternoon.

An unofficial voting poll was created by NASA asking people to guess what the announcement would be about. Out of the four options given on the poll, ‘Falcon Heavy rocket’ won a majority of 46 percent votes and 'Space Suits - Not Pink’ won the second highest number of votes, with 38 percent. 

Most of the people who took the pool were wrong.

Instead, SpaceX announced today that they have been approached to fly two private citizens, who have already paid a “significant deposit” for a trip around the moon late next year. 

Keep reading

Saturn V

The Saturn rocket series’ biggest brother, the culmination of America’s efforts during the Cold War Space Race against the Russians, and the paragon of human spaceflight achievement, The Apollo program’s primary tool was the mighty Saturn V, the pride of American space exploration, and NASA’s poster child. Designed by Wehrner von Braun, the massive rocket took 24 astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit, 12 of which walked on the Moon.

The Saturn V dwarfed every previous rocket fielded by America in the Space Race, remaining to this day the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status and still holds records for the heaviest payload launched and largest payload capacity. On the pad, she stood 363 feet (111m) tall, taller than the Statue of Liberty by 58 feet, with a diameter of 33 feet (10m), and weighed 6.5 million pounds fully fueled. Her designed payload capacity was rated at 261,000 pounds (118,000 kg) to Low Earth Orbit and 90,000 pounds (41,000 kg) to the Moon, but in later missions was able to carry about 310,000 pounds (140,000 kg) to LEO and sent up to 107,100 lb (48,600 kg) worth of spacecraft to the Moon.

The total launch vehicle was a 3 stage vehicle: the S-IC first stage, S-II second stage and the S-IVB third stage. The first stage used RP-1 for fuel, while the second and third stages used liquid hydrogen (LH2), with all three using liquid oxygen (LOX) for oxidizer.

Originally posted by spaceplasma

First Stage

The first stage of the Saturn V is the lower section of the rocket, producing the most thrust in order to get the vehicle off the pad and up to altitude for the second stage.

The Rocketdyne F-1 engine used to propel the rocket was designed for the U.S. Air Force by Rocketdyne for use on ICBM’s, but was dropped and picked up by NASA for use on their rockets. This engine still is the most powerful single combustion chamber engine ever produced, producing 1,522,000 lbf (6,770 kN) at sea level and 1,746,000 lbf (7,770 kN) in a vacuum. The S-IC has five F-1 engines. Total thrust on the pad, once fully throttled, was well over 7,600,000 lbf, consuming the RP-1 fuel and LOX oxidizer at a jaw-dropping 13 metric tonnes per second.

The launch sequence for the first stage begins at approx. T-minus 8.9 seconds, when the five F-1 engines are ignited to achieve full throttle on t-minus 0.  The center engine ignited first, followed by opposing outboard pairs at 300-millisecond intervals to reduce the structural loads on the rocket. When thrust had been confirmed by the onboard computers, the rocket was “soft-released” in two stages: first, the hold-down arms released the rocket, and second, as the rocket began to accelerate upwards, it was slowed by tapered metal pins pulled through dies for half a second.

It took about 12 seconds for the rocket to clear the tower. During this time, it yawed 1.25 degrees away from the tower to ensure adequate clearance despite adverse winds. (This yaw, although small, can be seen in launch photos taken from the east or west.) At an altitude of 430 feet (130 m) the rocket rolled to the correct flight azimuth and then gradually pitched down until 38 seconds after second stage ignition. This pitch program was set according to the prevailing winds during the launch month. The four outboard engines also tilted toward the outside so that in the event of a premature outboard engine shutdown the remaining engines would thrust through the rocket’s center of gravity. At this point in the launch, forces exerted on the astronauts is about 1.25 g.

At about T+ 1 minute, the rocket has gone supersonic, at which point, shock collars form around the rocket’s second stage separator. At this point, the vehicle is between 3 and 4 nautical miles in altitude.

Originally posted by sagansense

As the rocket ascends into thinner atmosphere and continues to burn fuel, the rocket becomes lighter, and the engine efficiency increases, accelerating the rocket at a tremendous rate.  At about 80 seconds, the rocket experienced maximum dynamic pressure. Once maximum efficiency of the F-1 engines is achieved, the total thrust peaks at around 9,000,000 lbf. At T+ 135 seconds, astronaut strain has increased to a constant 4 g’s.

At around T+ 168 seconds, the engines cut off as all fuel in the first stage is expended. At this point in flight, the rocket is  at an altitude of about 36 nautical miles (67 km), was downrange about 50 nautical miles (93 km), and was moving about 6,164 miles per hour (2,756 m/s). The first stage separates at a little less than 1 second following engine cutoff to allow for engine trail-off.  Eight small solid fuel separation motors backs the S-IC from the rest of the vehicle, and the first stage continues ballistically to an altitude of about 59 nautical miles (109 km) and then falls in the Atlantic Ocean about 300 nautical miles (560 km) downrange. Contrary to the common misconception, the S-IC stage never leaves Earth’s atmosphere, making it, technically, an aircraft.

Second Stage

The second stage is responsible with propelling the vehicle to orbital altitude and velocity. Already up to speed and altitude, the second stage doesn’t require as much Delta-V to achieve it’s operation.

For the first two unmanned launches, eight solid-fuel ullage motors ignited for four seconds to give positive acceleration to the S-II stage, followed by start of the five Rocketdyne J-2 engines. For the first seven manned Apollo missions only four ullage motors were used on the S-II, and they were eliminated completely for the final four launches. 

About 30 seconds after first stage separation, the interstage ring dropped from the second stage. This was done with an inertially fixed attitude so that the interstage, only 1 meter from the outboard J-2 engines, would fall cleanly without contacting them. Shortly after interstage separation the Launch Escape System was also jettisoned.

About 38 seconds after the second stage ignition the Saturn V switched from a preprogrammed trajectory to a “closed loop” or Iterative Guidance Mode. The Instrument Unit now computed in real time the most fuel-efficient trajectory toward its target orbit. If the Instrument Unit failed, the crew could switch control of the Saturn to the Command Module’s computer, take manual control, or abort the flight.

About 90 seconds before the second stage cutoff, the center engine shut down to reduce longitudinal pogo oscillations (a forward/backward oscillation caused by the unstable combustion of propellant). At around this time, the LOX flow rate decreases, changing the mix ratio of the two propellants, ensuring that there would be as little propellant as possible left in the tanks at the end of second stage flight. This was done at a predetermined Delta-V.

 Five level sensors in the bottom of each S-II propellant tank are armed during S-II flight, allowing any two to trigger S-II cutoff and staging when they were uncovered. One second after the second stage cut off it separates and several seconds later the third stage ignited. Solid fuel retro-rockets mounted on the interstage at the top of the S-II fires to back it away from the S-IVB. The S-II impacts about 2,300 nautical miles (4,200 km) from the launch site.

The S-II would burn for 6 minutes to propel the vehicle to 109 miles (175km) and 15,647 mph, close to orbital velocity.

Third Stage

Now in space, the third stage, the S-IVB’s sole purpose is to prepare and push the Command, Service, and Lunar Modules to the Moon via TLI. 

Unlike the two-plane separation of the S-IC and S-II, the S-II and S-IVB stages separated with a single step. Although it was constructed as part of the third stage, the interstage remained attached to the second stage.

During Apollo 11, a typical lunar mission, the third stage burned for about 2.5 minutes until first cutoff at 11 minutes 40 seconds. At this point it was 1,430 nautical miles (2,650 km)  downrange and in a parking orbit at an altitude of 103.2 nautical miles (191.1 km)  and velocity of 17,432 mph (7,793 m/s). The third stage remained attached to the spacecraft while it orbited the Earth one and a half times while astronauts and mission controllers prepared for translunar injection.

This parking orbit is quite low, and would eventually succumb to aerodynamic drag if maintained, but on lunar missions, this can be gotten away with because the vehicle is not intended to stay in said orbit for long. The S-IVB also continued to thrust at a low level by venting gaseous hydrogen, to keep propellants settled in their tanks and prevent gaseous cavities from forming in propellant feed lines. This venting also maintained safe pressures as liquid hydrogen boiled off in the fuel tank. This venting thrust easily exceeded aerodynamic drag.

On Apollo 11, TLI came at 2 hours and 44 minutes after launch. The S-IVB burned for almost six minutes giving the spacecraft a velocity close to the Earth’s escape velocity of 25,053 mph (11,200 m/s). This gave an energy-efficient transfer to lunar orbit, with the Moon helping to capture the spacecraft with a minimum of CSM fuel consumption.

After the TLI, the Saturn V has fullfilled its purpose of getting the Apollo crew and modules on their way to the Moon. At around 40 minutes after TLI, the Command Service module (the conjoined Command module and Service Module) separate from the LM adapter, turns 180 degrees, and docks with the exposed Lunar Module. After 50 minutes, the 3 modules separate from the spent S-IVC, in a process known as Transposition, docking and extraction

Of course, if the S-IVC were to remain on the same course (in other words, if they leave it right there unattended), due to the physics of zero gravity environments, the third stage would present a collision hazard for the Apollo modules. To prevent this, its remaining propellants were vented and the auxiliary propulsion system fired to move it away. Before Apollo 13, the S-IVB was directed to slingshot around the Moon into a solar orbit, but from 13 onward, the S-IVB was directed to actually impact the Moon. The reason for this was for existing probes to register the impacts on their seismic sensors, giving valuable data on the internals and structure of the Moon.

Launch Escape System

The Saturn V carries a frightening amount of potential energy (the Saturn V on the pad, if launch failed and the rocket ruptured and exploded, would have released an energy equivalent to 2 kilotons of TNT, a force shy of the smallest atomic weapons), which luckily was unleashed as planned without incident. However, this being NASA, precautions were made to save the crew in event of a catastrophic failure. 

The LES (Launch Escape System) has been around since the Mercury Program as a way to get the crew capsule away from a potential explosion on the pad or in early launch. The idea is that a small rocket would take the capsule far enough away from the rocket that parachutes could be deployed.

The LES included three wires that ran down the exterior of the launch vehicle. If the signals from any two of the wires were lost, the LES would activate automatically. Alternatively, the Commander could activate the system manually using one of two translation controller handles, which were switched to a special abort mode for launch. When activated, the LES would fire a solid fuel escape rocket, and open a canard system to direct the Command Module away from, and off the path of, a launch vehicle in trouble. The LES would then jettison and the Command Module would land with its parachute recovery system.

If the emergency happened on the launch pad, the LES would lift the Command Module to a sufficient height to allow the recovery parachutes to deploy safely before coming in contact with the ground.

An interesting factoid is how much power the LES possesses; in fact, the LES rocket produces more thrust (147,000 pounds-force (650 kN) sea level thrust) than the Mercury-Redstone rocket (78,000 pounds-force (350 kN)) used to launch Freedom-7 during the Mercury program. 


Originally posted by pappubahry

After budget cuts necessitated mission cancellations and the end of the Apollo program, NASA still had at least one Saturn V rocket intended for Apollo 18/19. Luckily, in 1965, the Apollo Applications Program was established to find a use for the Saturn V rocket following the Apollo program. Much of the research conducted in this program revolved around sending up a space station. This station (now known as Skylab) would be built on the ground from a surplus Saturn IB second stage and launched on the first two live stages of a Saturn V. 

The only significant changes to the Saturn V from the Apollo configurations involved some modification to the S-II to act as the terminal stage for inserting the Skylab payload into Earth orbit, and to vent excess propellant after engine cutoff so the spent stage would not rupture in orbit. The S-II remained in orbit for almost two years, and made an uncontrolled re-entry on January 11, 1975. 

This would be NASA’s only Saturn V launch not associated with the Apollo program, and unfortunately, would prove to be the Saturn V’s last one. There were other concepts for Saturn V’s as launch vehicles, including a space shuttle design, but none of these ever came to fruition. 


From 1964 until 1973, a total of $6.417 billion ($41.4 billion in 2016) was appropriated for the Saturn V, with the maximum being in 1966 with $1.2 billion ($8.75 billion in 2016). 

Displays and Survivors

There are several displays of Saturn V rockets around the United States, including a few test rockets and unused ones intended for flight. The list below details what and where they are.

  • Two at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville:

SA-500D is on horizontal display made up of S-IC-D, S-II-F/D and S-IVB-D. These were all test stages not meant for flight. This vehicle was displayed outdoors from 1969 to 2007, was restored, and is now displayed in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration. The second display here is a vertical display (replica) built in 1999 located in an adjacent area.

  • One at the Johnson Space Center made up of first stage from SA-514, the second stage from SA-515 and the third stage from SA-513 (replaced for flight by the Skylab workshop). With stages arriving between 1977 and 1979, this was displayed in the open until its 2005 restoration when a structure was built around it for protection. This is the only display Saturn consisting entirely of stages intended to be launched.
  • One at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, made up of S-IC-T (test stage) and the second and third stages from SA-514. It was displayed outdoors for decades, then in 1996 was enclosed for protection from the elements in the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
  • The S-IC stage from SA-515 is on display at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • The S-IVB stage from SA-515 was converted for use as a backup for Skylab, and is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Source: Wikipedia


Apollo 13 Photos Help Us Remember Astronauts’ Heroism Decades After Near-Tragedy

Apollo 13 was supposed to be NASA’s third lunar landing mission but an oxygen leak necessitated an emergency return home. 

Members of the original Apollo 13 crew, from left, commander Jim Lovell, command module pilot Ken Mattingly, and lunar module pilot Fred Haise pose in December 1969. Days before the mission, the crew was inadvertently exposed to German measles. Mattingly had no immunity to the virus and was replaced by backup command module pilot, Jack Swigert.

Some 56 hours into the Apollo 13 mission, oxygen tank No. 2 exploded, causing oxygen tank No. 1 to also fail. The command module’s normal supply of electricity, light, and water was lost as they flew more than 200,000 miles from Earth.

Swigert saw a warning light that accompanied the bang and radioed mission control: “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

A parade was held in the astronauts’ honor after their safe return.

See the full set here.

Apollo 17 Enters Lunar Orbit (10 Dec. 1972) — The crescent Earth rises above the lunar horizon in this photograph taken from the Apollo 17 spacecraft in lunar orbit during National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) final lunar landing mission in the Apollo program. While astronauts Eugene A. Cernan, commander, and Harrison H. Schmitt, lunar module pilot, descended in the Lunar Module (LM) “Challenger” to explore the Taurus-Littrow region of the moon, astronaut Ronald E. Evans, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Modules (CSM) “America” in lunar orbit.

NASA Selects ‘ShadowCam’ to Fly on Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter

NASA has selected an instrument developed by investigators at Arizona State University and Malin Space Science Systems as a U.S. contribution to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s (KARI) first lunar exploration mission, Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO). ShadowCam will address Strategic Knowledge Gaps, or lack of information required to reduce risk, increase effectiveness, and improve the designs of future human and robotic missions. ShadowCam joins four KARI-developed instruments on KPLO.

Keep reading

“I find that as I work on details [of the space program]—literally working out the problems of a lunar expedition—the whole mission becomes more real to me and less of an adventure into the unknown. Here we are rehearsing it, living it every day. Now, when I look at the moon at night, it seems more familiar to me. And sometimes I find myself thinking about the lunar surface and picture it just as though I were about to land there.”

-Astronaut Elliot See, LIFE Magazine, 1963

(April 1970) — These three astronauts are the prime crew of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Apollo 13 lunar landing mission. Left to right, are James A. Lovell Jr., commander; John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot; and Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot. Apollo 13 will be the United States’ third lunar landing mission.


CPT-USN Eugene A. ‘Gene’ Cernan (14 March 1934 - 16 Jan 2017)

Gemini 9, Apollo 10, and Apollo 17 astronaut, the last man to set foot on the surface of the moon, passed away today at the age of 82. Cernan, a rough, tough Naval Aviator, A-4 jock, became part of NASA Group 3 in 1963. Gemini 9 in June 1966, proved a harrowing experience for Gene, it was one that taught us many invaluable lessons about EVA in space, a crucial step to the moon. Apollo 10 in May 1969, was to be the final test of the LEM ascent and descent stages and of it’s guidance systems from lunar orbit, a vital test flight that paved the way to Apollo 11′s historic first landing later that year. Apollo 17, the last of the historic 6 Apollo Lunar missions, in December 1972, Gene was in role as Commander of the flight, piloting the LEM along side Harrison Schmitt, landing in the mountainous region of the Taurus-Littrow valley. Gene became the last human of only 12 to set foot on the Moon.

sleep well among em’, Gene-o’

The Apollo 8 (Spacecraft 103/Saturn 503) space vehicle is launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center (KSC), at 7:51 a.m (EST), December 21, 1968. The crew of the Apollo 8 lunar orbit mission is astronauts Frank Borman, commander; James A. Lovell Jr., command module pilot; and William A. Anders, lunar module pilot. Image S68-56050 courtesy NASA/JSC.


First Woman in Space, Valentina Tereshkova

The Tereshkova Crater is a small lunar crater on the dark side of the moon near the Sea of Moscow. Identified during the Soviet lunar missions the crater is named for Valentina Tereshkova, who has the distinction of being both the first female and first civilian in space as pilot of the Vostok 6 mission. Valentina Tereshkova made her historic flight on this day, June 16, 1963.

What’s Up for October 2016?

What’s Up for October? Moon phases, Astronomy Day, meteors and Saturn!

The new moon phase starts the month on October 1. Of course, the new moon isn’t visible, because it’s between Earth and the sun, and the unlit side is facing Earth. 

Night by night the slender crescent gets bigger and higher in the sky and easier to see just after sunset. On the 3rd and 4th, the moon will pass just above Venus!

A week later on the 9th the moon has traveled through one quarter of its 29-day orbit around Earth, and we see the first quarter phase. Also look for Mars just below the moon.

Join us in celebrating International Observe the Moon Night Saturday, October 8th, with your local astronomy club or science center. Conveniently, the 8th is also Fall Astronomy Day, celebrated internationally by astronomy clubs since 1973.

One week later on the 16th the moon reaches opposition, or the full moon phase, when the moon and the sun are on opposite sides of Earth. And the sun completely illuminates the moon as seen from Earth. 

During this phase, the moon rises in the east just as the sun is setting in the west. Overnight, the moon crosses the sky and sets at dawn.

A week later, on the 22nd of October, the last quarter moon rises at midnight. Later, the pretty and bright Beehive Cluster will be visible near the moon until dawn.

To wrap up the month, 29 days after the last new moon we start the lunar cycle all over again with another new moon phase on October 30th. Will you be able to spot the one-day old moon on Halloween? It will be a challenge!

There are three meteor showers in October–the Draconids, the Taurids and the Orionids. Try for the Draconids on October 8th.  

See the Taurids on October 10th. 

The Orionids will be marred by the full moon on the 21st, but all three meteor showers will offer some possible bright meteors.

Finally, you’ll have an especially pretty view of Saturn, when it forms a straight line with Venus and the red star Antares on the 27th.

You can catch up on NASA’s lunar mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Cassini Mission to Saturn and all of our missions at

Watch the full October “What’s Up" video for more:

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: