Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Delta 4 rocket launching the WGS 4 military communications satellite as seen from the West Melbourne, Florida area.
Rocket: Delta 4
Payload: WGS 4
Date: Jan. 19, 2012
Site: SLC-37B, Cape Canaveral, Florida
“The Wideband Global SATCOM 4 spacecraft, better known as WGS 4, rode a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket away from the Florida spaceport’s pad 37B at 7:38 p.m. EST (0038 GMT) on a 40-minute ascent to supersynchronous orbit.
Liftoff occurred at the opening minute of a launch window set months in advance.
Valued at $464 million, the 6.5-ton satellite will enhance military communications over a turbulent portion of the globe when it commences broadcasting duties in a few months.”
Friday, January 13, 2012
A coordinated global campaign is monitoring a wayward Russian Mars probe that’s slated to crash to Earth in the next few days, the European Space Agency has announced.
The doomed Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which Russian officials estimate will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere between Saturday and Monday (Jan. 14-16), is now officially a target for the 12-member Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, or IADC for short.
“An IADC re-entry prediction campaign is ongoing since January 2. Phobos-Grunt was identified to be no high-risk object,” said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the space debris office at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Space Operations Centerin Darmstadt, Germany. “Hence, this will be adopted as our annual ‘test campaign’ for 2012,” he told SPACE.com.
The determination that Phobos-Grunt is not a high-risk piece of space junk is due to the relatively low dry mass of the errant spacecraft — just 2.5 tons. There is about 11 tons of toxic propellant onboard, adding up to the probe’s total mass of 13.5 tons.
According to ESA, studies by the Russian space agency (known as Roscosmos) and NASA indicate that Phobos-Grunt’s fuel tanks should burst high above the Earth, releasing a load of propellant that will subsequently dissipate. [Photos of the Phobos-Grunt mission]
“Because it was stuck in low Earth orbit rather than heading towards Mars, this has meant that it’s full of fuel too,” said Alice Gorman, a lecturer in the School of Humanities, Department of Archaeology at Flinders University in South Australia.
Gorman specializes in space archaeology and noted that the fuel tanks, according to the Russian space agency, are made of aluminum.