solid rockets


     Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, offers the unique sight of a complete Mercury spacecraft. Many of these spacecraft are available for viewing all over the United States, but this one is special because it did not fly.

     During the course of a Mercury flight, several parts of the spacecraft are jettisoned and not recovered, including the retro package. This piece of equipment is visible here in my photos as the striped metal object strapped to the bottom of the heat shield. This small cluster of solid rocket motors was responsible for the safe return of the astronaut from space, making just enough thrust to change the shape of the orbit so that it would meet the atmosphere and use aerobraking for a ballistic reentry.

     If this package had not fired properly, the astronaut would be faced with the dire situation of being stuck in orbit. Fortunately, this never happened in real life, but it was captured in the fanciful novel “Marooned” by Martin Cardin, in which a NASA astronaut was stranded on orbit after his retro rockets failed. When the book was released in 1964, it was so influential that it actually changed procedures for Mercury’s follow on program Project Gemini, adding more redundancy to the spacecraft’s reentry flight profile.

     Alan Shepard, the first American in space and later Apollo 14 moonwalker, didn’t fail to notice that there was a leftover spacecraft at the end of the Mercury program. He lobbied for a second Mercury flight in this ship, speaking personally to both NASA Administrator James Webb and President John Kennedy about this flight. He told them his idea of an “open ended” mission in which they would keep him in orbit indefinitely until there was a malfunction or consumables began to run out. Webb stated (and Kennedy agreed) that it was more important to shelve the Mercury spacecraft in order to jump start the more capable Gemini Program. Thus, we now have this whole Mercury on display for future generations to appreciate.

Pharmercy - >1000 words

Angela invites Fareeha to dance one night as they’re walking down from a mountain path, their breath coming out in warm white puffs against the cool autumn air. She’s listening to something in her headphones, as she usually does when she accepts Fareeha’s invitations to walk. Even when they don’t talk, even when Angela blares music to distract herself from her breathing, Fareeha is thankful for every opportunity to be nearer to her. Fareeha is listening to a frog in the distance, but more than that: relative silence, so the request catches her off guard, if a little bit.

“Please?” Angela says, a genuine smile on her lips, her hand extended to Fareeha.

Fareeha isn’t much of a dancer, has never had much of a reason to invest time in learning, but she has recently discovered that she may very well love the doctor, so she’s willing to try anything once for her. She gives Angela her hand.

Angela takes out an earbud, gives it to Fareeha. The song is slow and lyric-less and oddly ambient. Angela wraps an arm around her neck, and not knowing what to do with her free hand, Fareeha rests it on Angela’s hip. And that’s truly where it starts.

It’s not really dancing, in as uneven a place as a walking path on a mountain, the most they’re really capable of doing is swaying, and yet it still feels too intimate.

Fareeha watches every action; wants to memorize the expression on Angela’s face, how her eyes close and she rests her head on Fareeha’s chest - Fareeha suspects that Angela is listening for a heartbeat, as she does when they’re laying in bed together, and occasionally when she’s being cheeky during Fareeha’s check-ups and checks once, ear pressed firm over Fareeha’s burning skin, before she reluctantly brings out the stethoscope. And through all of this, they give no name to themselves.

Perhaps it’s a lot to ask for a label. Fareeha and Angela have only danced in the woods like this once, but they spend endless days dancing around what they are, who they are, how the choose to approach the world. It’s easy to find happiness, harder to commit to working to keep it. Life is so resplendently short, it is unfair to ask Angela to divide her time up, to make room for Fareeha as something preminente, when she has devoted her life to greater causes; it would be selfish to ask Angela to give her what she no longer posses herself.

The song fades out and Fareeha is so wrapped up in her mind she doesn’t quite notice until Angela places a cold hand on her cheek and literally shocks her out of it.

“Are you alright?” She asks when Fareeha looks down. It’s probably the faraway look in Fareeha’s eyes, or the confusion etched in the lines at her forehead that cause Angela to worry her lip briefly and then elaborate. “You heart, Fareeha, it’s hammering.” Fareeha’s mouths oh and then smiles slightly.

“I think that is just the effect of you.” She says, it comes out smooth, like milk or satin and because Angela cannot take a complement gracefully, she bumps her shoulder against Fareeha’s and attempts to look put upon.

She always falls short; Fareeha has learned that although Angela does not need it to be incredible, to do what she does, Angela hunts for praise, and likes to receive it.

“All the same,” Angela says, “I will listen if you need to talk.”

For a moment, neither speaks. Fareeha drops her hands from Angela’s hips, removes the earpiece from her ear and hands it back. Fareeha watches how Angela moves when she takes it, focused on her fingers and then her eyes, like looking into a cracked geode, reflected and splintering shades of blue. Too perceptive.

“If I told you I love you,” Fareeha says suddenly, “what would that do to us?”

Fareeha hadn’t particularly meant to say it, but she also doesn’t regret it. Her heart hammers, but not for fear - just of that same vein of feeling which follows saying something foreign and new for the first time.

“Do you love me? Or are we exploring a hypothetical?” Angela says, smiles prettily, but she is impossible to read.

“I do love you,” says Fareeha, and then nervously: “but only if it means that nothing has to change.”

Angela hums, puts a hand behind Fareeha’s neck and pulls her into a kiss. It’s a nice reprise from the cold air and the rushing blood Fareeha can hear in her ears. It’s a nice reprise because Angela wants, and she may be hard to read at times, but skin to skin Fareeha can feel every jerky move of self-containment, revels in every nip to her lip, and the way Angela’s hands grip like she is scared to let go. Perhaps she is.

Perhaps Angela is tired of losing people; Fareeha had never thought of it before.

“I suppose I love you, too” Angela says playfully, after a time, withdrawing. She twines her hand in Fareeha’s; walks with her down the path once more.

“Suppose?” Fareeha echoes and chuckles a bit.

“No, you’re right.” Angela says, “I do love you, I know that. Does it worry you that we don’t say these things to each other?”

“A little,” Fareeha confesses. Angela laughs quietly.

“We’re in a bad position to fall in love,” Angela says, softly, almost to herself. “But then, I think I often make the mistake of assuming life is linear and easily navigated. It’s not.”

“No,” Fareeha agrees, and for a time they are quiet.

“Do you like dancing?” Angela asks as they approach the watchpoint.

Fareeha turns to her, grins stupidly, guiltily.

“Not particularly,” she confesses.

“That’s too bad,” says Angela, looks at her out of the corner of her eye and smirks, “loving me means that you will probably need to learn to like it.”

“Well, I think that it will be a fair trade,” a pause, “loving me means occasional workouts at 4:00 on Saturdays.” Fareeha says, smiles. Angela balks.

“Absolutely not.”

“Love is pain,” Fareeha grins, swoops in and steals a kiss.

Rheintöchter R-1, prototype German SAM missile manufactured by Rheinmetall-Borsig

The name derives from the mythical Rheintöchter (something like the maidens of the Rhine), taken from the opera Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner.
Charged by the Heer in November 1942, tests with the missile carrying an explosive head of 136 kg. They began in August 1943, performing 82 shots, counting also with a version to be released from an airplane. The R1 was the initial version, and was propelled by a solid two-stage rocket engine, having flares installed at the wing tips for flight control. Because the R-1 was not able to reach great heights, the R-3 was developed, which was powered by a liquid fuel rocket motor and by solid fuel boosters. Finally the project was canceled on 6 February 1945

swedish space vocabulary

the bolded parts of nouns are their indefinite form and the regular text included shows the definite form. some names and specific terms are only written in the definite form due to their indefinite forms being very uncommon.

rymden - space 

stjärnan - star

månen - moon

solen - sun

Jorden - the Earth

Jordradien - the Earth’s radius

planeten - planet

kometen - comet

asteroiden - asteroid

meteoriten - meteorite

stjärnfallet - shooting star

stjärnhimmel def. stjärnhimlen - the sky (at night)

solförmörkelsen - solar eclipse

månförmörkelsen - lunar eclipse

stjärnbilden - constellation

vintersolståndet - winter solstice

sommarsolståndet - summer solstice

vårdagjämningen - March equinox

höstdagjämningen - September equinox

satelliten - satellite

astronauten - astronaut

kosmonauten - cosmonaut

taikonauten - taikonaut

rymdfärjan (in some very rare cases rymdskytteln) - space shuttle

rymdskeppet - spaceship

rymdfarkosten - spaceship (literally means space vehicle)

rymdraketen - (space) rocket

fastbränsleraketen - solid rocket booster

bränsletanken - fuel tank

syret - oxygen

vätet - hydrogen

vätgasen - hydrogen gas

heliumet - helium

flygningen - flight

Månlandningen - moon landing

månlandaren - lunar module/lunar vehicle

omloppsbanan - orbit

landningen - landing

landningsbanan - runway (as in the one you land on)

rymdstationen - space station

Markkontrollen - ground control

rymdpromenaden - spacewalk

rymddräkten - spacesuit

rymdhjälmen - space helmet

rymdfärden - space voyage

rymdresan - space voyage (slightly less common)

tyngdlös - weightless adj.

densiteten - density

massan - mass

gravitationen/tyngdkraften - gravity

fallskärmen - parachute

atmosfären - atmosphere


exoplaneten - exo-planet

nödkapseln - emergency capsule

rymdvarelsen - alien

ljusets hastighet - light speed

den absoluta nollpunkten - absolute zero

den röda jätte(stjärna)n - red giant

den röda dvärg(en) - red dwarf

den vita dvärg(stjärna)n - white dwarf

den svarta dvärg(stjärna)n - black dwarf

ljusåret - light-year

vakuumet - vacuum

strålningen - radiation

bågminuten - arcminute

det svarta hålet - black hole

supernovan - supernova

Den Stora Smällen/or just “Big Bang” - Big Bang

nebulosan - nebula

galaxen - galaxy

spiralarmen - spiral arm

Relativitetsteorin - the Theory of Relativity

oändligheten - infinity

tomheten - emptiness/void


STS-53 by NASA on The Commons
STS-53 Discovery, Orbiter Vehicle (OV) 103, lifts off from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex (LC) Pad 39A at 8:24:00 am (Eastern Standard Time (EST)). An exhaust cloud frames OV-103, atop the external tank (ET) and flanked by two solid rocket boosters (SRBs), as it rises above the mobile launcher platform. Image #: sts053-s-056 Date: December 2, 1992


More photos from yesterday’s rollout of the Antares 230 rocket carrying the OA-5 mission.

Following a 2014 launch mishap caused by defects in the AJ-26 engines, Orbital ATK redesigned the Antares to use the RD-181 powerplant, similar to the Atlas V’s. With 25% more thrust than previous versions, Antares can now loft the larger Enhanced Cygnus variant of the cargo freighter. Previous flights of the Enhanced Cygnus flew on Atlas V rockets from Cape Canaveral.

Orbital ATK also incorporated a larger solid rocket motor as its second stage, the Castor 30XL. OA-5 marks the return of Orbital’s launch campaigns at Wallops’ Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

Liftoff is scheduled for 8:03pm EDT Sunday, October 16.

SpaceX successfully lands its third Falcon 9 rocket on solid ground
SpaceX pulled off another successful rocket landing this morning — and this time during the day on the coast of Florida. A Falcon 9 rocket successfully touched down at SpaceX’s ground-based landing zone at Cape Canaveral after launching to space. It’s the third time that SpaceX has landed its rocket on solid ground post-launch, but the first time a ground landing has been done during the daytime. Read more

Atlas V reconfigured for Starliner missions

Following up on more than six months of wind tunnel testing, Boeing and ULA management announced a slight reconfiguration of the Atlas V 421 rocket that will loft the Starliner spacecraft.

Atlas will be flying without a payload fairing on Starliner missions, which introduced unforeseen aerodynamic loads on the vehicle. To minimize these loads, which could potentially damage the spacecraft, engineers developed an aeroskirt which will be attached to the aft end of the Service Module.

This aeroskirt will deflect aerodynamic loads further aft from the spacecraft, increasing stability during the rocket’s ascent to orbit.

Starliner missions will be a unique configuration for the Atlas rocket, with no payload fairing, two AJ-60 Solid Rocket Motors, and the new aeroskirt. Starliner will also mark return of human spaceflight to the Atlas rocket, which earlier variants lofted NASA’s Mercury capsule into orbit in the early 1960s.

Boeing initially expected crewed flights to begin by the end of 2017, however recent statements from the company have indicated a slip into December 2018. This yearlong delay was caused by issues in the supply chain of the manufacturing process. Starliner initially was slated to fly Astronauts in early 2017.

P/c: ULA.


9K35 Strela-10

A highly mobile, visually aimed, optical/infrared-guided, low-altitude, short-range surface-to-air missile system. “9K35” is its GRAU designation; its NATO reporting name is SA-13 “Gopher”.

Propellant : single-stage solid propellant rocket motor
Operational range : 5 kilometres .
Flight altitude : 3,500 metres .
Speed : 550 m/s.

Known Combat use

1) Angolan war:

On February 20, 1988,Mirage F1AZ was shot down by a SA-13 Gopher.

2) Operation Desert Storm:

At least two of the losses are believed to have been due to Strela-10 hits.on Feb 15th an A-10A Warthog was hit by a SAM believed to be Strela-10 some 60 miles north west of Kuwait city while attacking Republican Guard targets.Pilot Lt Robert Sweet ejected and was made a Prisoner of War. While attempting to protect Sweet on the ground, his wingman Steven Phyllis flying A-10A 79-0130 was also hit by what is believed to have been a missile from a Strela-10. Phyllis was killed in the incident.

3) Kosovo:

One, possibly two OA-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft are believed to have been hit by Serbian Strela-10 SAMs. Both aircraft landed safely and were repaired and returned to service.

In high bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, a crane lowers space shuttle Discovery toward the external tank and solid rocket boosters already stacked on the mobile launcher platform. The stacking and mating took place in preparation for the launch on the STS-124 mission to the International Space Station.

Discovery is targeted to launch May 31. Navy Cmdr. Mark E. Kelly will command the STS-124 shuttle mission to deliver the Pressurized Module and robotic arm of the Japanese Experiment Module, known as “Kibo” (hope).


A different perspective on Wednesday’s firing of Qualification Motor-1. The test of the first full-duration, 5-segment Solid Rocket Motor for the Space Launch System was heard for miles around Orbital ATK’s Promontory, Utah test site. 

The nearest spectators were two miles away from the test stand, but these spectators in a passing airplane probably got the best view!

Fore more on the QM-1 test, check out the archives here.