• Category Archives Uncategorized
  • Solar eclipse of August 21, 2017

    Here are a few of the pictures I took of the solar eclipse. These were taken from the Space Coast (Brevard County, Florida). We were not in the path of totality. The coverage here was about 85%. It’s amazing how bright it still is outside with 85% of the sun covered…

    I think these came out pretty good considering that they were taken by holding a pair of those cheap paper eclipse glasses up to the lens of my Cannon PowerShot SX40 HS :)

    More pictures can be found here: https://file.army/a/zE1Ea

  • STS-99 Space Shuttle Endeavour

    Once nice thing about living along the Space Coast is the ability to walk out my front door and see launches from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Lately this includes Space X Falcon 9 launches, Atlas V launches and Delta 4 launches. It used to also include Space Shuttle launches.

    Even though I live close enough to get a decent view of the launches, I’ve still gone to KSC property on a couple of occasions to see them close up. One such time was in February 2000 when I watched the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour for the STS-99 mission. Buying the launch viewing opportunity ticket gets you as close as you get get to the Launch Pad 39 complex as a member of the public, which is still a few miles away.

    Human space flight is still rare enough that most launches are still historic in some way. In the case of this Endeavour launch, it was the last launch of Endeavour that was not an International Space Station dedicated mission. It was also the last flight of Endeavour to use the original Space Shuttle cockpit layout before being upgraded to the glass cockpit.

    The mission itself was the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). The purpose was to create the most complete and high resolution digital topographic database of the Earth. A specially modified C-band and X-band interferometric synthetic aperture radar (IFSAR) was used to complete this task and the 11-day mission was a success, generating over 8 terabytes of data.

    One of the bad things about buying the viewing ticket is that you have to come back when ever a launch is scrubbed and this happens often. The ticket is good for that particular mission so whenever it finally launches, no matter how long it is ultimately delayed, the ticket is still good for that launch. It’s just a matter of you being available which may be difficult if you were here on vacation. This particular mission was scrubbed twice and ended up launching 11 days later than planned. Fortunately, these were not lat minute cancellations so at least I had several hours notice and didn’t have to drive out there and back. This is not always hte case.

    At any rate, the experience is well worth it. I recommend waiting until the Falcon Heavy launches or perhaps even NASA’s new Space Launch System but if you are in the area and there happens to be a launch of any kind, get tickets if you can and if not, you can still get pretty close along the beach nearby.

  • The Saturn V

    In many ways, the peak of the U.S. manned space program occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s when almost regular trips were being taken to the Moon. The Saturn V, the most powerful rocket ever built, is what made that possible. To this day, it is still the only rocket that has ever carried humans beyond low Earth orbit.

    Saturn V 1st stage

    A total of 15 flight capable Saturn Vs were built but only 13 ever flew. In addition to those 15, there were another 3 that were built for ground testing. The first Moon landing was launched by Apollo 11 (actually the 6th launch of the Saturn V). The sixth and final Moon landing was launched by Apollo 17 in 1972. This was also the only night launch of the Saturn V.

    There was one more unmanned launch of the Saturn V to launch Skylab in 1973. This Saturn V was originally designated for the cancelled Apollo 18 mission. That leaves two more Saturn Vs that were never used. The second and third stages of the Saturn V that was designated for the cancelled Apollo 19 mission can be seen at the Kennedy Space Center (pictured above and below). The first stage is at the Johnson Space Center. The first stage that is at KSC is from a static test firing that occurred before the Saturn V’s first flight. The final Saturn V is similarly divided among different museums around the country. Apollo 18 and Apollo 19 would have also been moon landings.

    Saturn V 3rd stage

    Before the Apollo program was cancelled, there were some big plans for further launches to the moon using the Saturn V and plans for more powerful future Saturn V derivative rockets. One plan called for using such a launch vehicle for a mission to Mars in 1980. Ultimately, cost was the factor that led to the end of the Saturn V and future plans based on potential derivatives. Each Saturn V launch cost a total of more than a billion dollars in today’s dollars. This is pretty close to what Space Shuttle launches cost though it was originally intended to be cheaper because of reusability. NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System is planned to exceed the capabilities of the Saturn V and eventually take humans to Mars in the 2030s, 50 or more years later. Supposedly, it will only cost approximately 500 million per launch.

    The pictures above were taken during a visit to KSC in February 2000. The Saturn V is still there today though :)