Archive for the ‘International Space Station’ Category

Captain Rick: The International Space Station has a new camera that broadcasts live video streaming of earth as it orbits every 90 minutes. This is amazing new technology that was made possible by a recent supply mission by SpaceX’s Dragon supply ship. I captured this stunning image looking south over the Baja of Mexico as the ISS flew over Los Angeles just after 3 PM this afternoon.

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Click the above image to watch live streaming video as the ISS passes over your area

Images are shown in a window at the left, when available subject to earths lighting and communication ability. A window at the right shows the current ISS location with a Google satellite image below. The ISS orbits the globe every 90 minutes. Each path is about 500 miles west of the previous.

Info on SpaceX’s Dragon … a private commercial space vehicle that takes over for the retired Space Shuttle

Dragon is a partially reusable spacecraft developed by SpaceX, an American private space transportation company based in Hawthorne, California. Dragon is launched into space by the SpaceX Falcon 9 two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle, and is capable of both manned and robotic operation.

During its uncrewed maiden flight in December 2010, Dragon became the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to be recovered successfully from orbit. On 25 May 2012, an uncrewed variant of Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully rendezvous with and be attached to the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX is contracted to deliver cargo to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program, and Dragon began regular cargo flights in October 2012.

SpaceX is additionally developing a crewed variant of the Dragon called DragonRider. DragonRider will be able to carry up to seven astronauts, or some combination of crew and cargo, to and from low Earth orbit. SpaceX has received several U.S. Government contracts to develop its crewed variant, including a Commercial Crew Development 2 (CCDev 2)-funded Space Act Agreement in April 2011, and a Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap)-funded space act agreement in August 2012. The spacecraft’s heat shield is furthermore designed to withstand Earth re-entry velocities from potential Lunar and Martian spaceflights.

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Captain Rick: Astronauts onboard the International Space Station restored the cool via space walks in December 2013.

As an engineer and lifelong follower of NASA, the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS) programs, I am compelled to report on this remarkable event. I was fortunate to personally witness a Space Shuttle launch from Cape Kennedy in the early 1980s. The shaking of the ground and thundering across the sky was the most awesome experience of power that I have ever witnessed.

I created an ‘Atridim Widescreen’ photo crop of a recent space walk (compliments of a NASA high definition original) for full screen viewing enjoyment on your HDTV or widescreen computer monitor.

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High Definition Viewing Instructions : Click the above photo, then the 3 dots at lower right (view all sizes) to view it in high definition via Captain Rick’s Flickr Photostream.

Details of the recent Space Walk:

Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins wrapped up a 5-hour, 28-minute spacewalk outside the International Space Station at 12:29 p.m. EST Saturday, December 21, 2013, completing the first in a series of excursions aimed at replacing a degraded ammonia pump module associated with one of the station’s two external cooling loops that keeps both internal and external equipment cool.

On Sunday, Dec. 22, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins tweeted of Saturday’s spacewalk, saying, "Wow… can’t believe that is me yesterday. Wish I could find the words to describe the experience, truly amazing."

A second spacewalk to install a replacement pump module occurred on Dec. 24, 2013. NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, Expedition 38 Flight Engineer, participates in the second of two spacewalks, spread over a four-day period, which were designed to allow the crew to change out a faulty water pump on the exterior of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station. He was joined on both spacewalks by NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, whose image shows up in Hopkins’ helmet visor.

Get connected to what is happening onboard the ISS. Watch the ISS pass over your house.

I subscribe to NASA’s ISS ‘Spot the Station’ email alerts and enjoy watching the ISS frequently pass over my Arizona Oasis during the early dawn or late dusk sky, when it is the brightest and fastest moving ‘star’ across the sky. It travels at 17,000 mph at an altitude of 265 miles. If you have not seen the ISS soar overhead…you have missed a wonderful spectacle.

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NASA email alerts of when the ISS will pass over your area

Track the ISS in your area

Have you seen the ISS race across the sky?

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Captain Rick: The International Space Station has experienced a failure in one of two cooling systems. NASA describes the situation as “urgent” but not “life threatening”. Its crew of 6 might have to evacuate if cooling capacity is not restored soon.

The ISS is the size of a football field, orbiting earth at 265 miles up, traveling at a speed of 17,000 mph. As an avid follower of the ISS since its first components were launched into orbit by a NASA Space Shuttle in 1998, I enjoy watching it pass over my home in Gilbert, Arizona every chance I get. The ISS is only visible during a short time frame before sunrise or after sunset when the sky is dark and the ISS is illuminated by the sun’s rays. A good sighting only happens once or twice a month for most locations on earth that lie within 55 degrees north and south of the equator. Last evening, the ISS’s rare pass overhead carried special significance. As I watched it zoom across the sky and vanish into earths shadow four minutes later, I realized that on board were six crew members that were facing a serious situation.

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Why does the ISS need cooling when the temp in space runs –454F (-270C)?

The International Space Station, with an acre of solar panels, generates between 75 and 90 kilowatts of power. This power is used by the ISS’s systems, from life support, to storage freezers, to various lab experiments that are dotted throughout the interior. This generates a lot of waste heat — heat that has to be vented into space. To do this, the ISS has a cooling system — essentially a pump, a radiator, and some pipes filled with ammonia — that ferries heat from inside to outside, where the chills of outer space (-270 Celsius or -454 Fahrenheit) quickly dispose of the heat.

There are two cooling loops — Loop-A and Loop-B — and for some reason Loop-A failed late on Wednesday. Usually both systems work in concert to keep the ISS and its various systems cooled, but now Loop-B must bear all of the load. To compensate, some non-critical systems and science experiments (the Japanese Kibo lab, the European Columbus lab) have been disabled. Life support, storage freezers, and other systems that are of vital importance are still up and running.

What is being done to fix this urgent problem?

NASA is currently working around the clock to determine what’s wrong with Loop-A, and how to fix it. So far, it sounds like a flow control valve malfunctioned, causing an anomalous temperature imbalance, which triggered an automatic shutdown when the system reached a preset threshold temperature. The fix might be as simple as uploading some new management software for the valve, or it may require a risky spacewalk to replace a component. Spacewalks have been banned for a while due to 2 cups of water leaking into the helmet of a previous spacewalker.

What if the problem can not be fixed with available parts onboard or via a software patch?

The worst-case scenario is that Loop-B fails before they can fix Loop-A: this would require evacuation of the 6 crew members on board.  There are always enough Soyuz capsules attached to the ISS to ensure that everyone on board has a ride back to Earth. I have hope that the many great minds working on this problem will find a fix and save the great works of the International Space Station. I see the ISS as one of the few expenditures of big money that has been constructive in bringing nations together for a great common research cause (about $150 billion so far, including…NASA: $70 billon, Russia: $12 billon, Europe: $5 billion, Japan: $5 billion, Canada: $2 billion).

Updates on this urgent problem:

I shall do my best to post breaking news updates via the comment section.

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Have you seen the ISS race across the sky?

Space

Track the ISS in your area

NASA email alerts of when the ISS will pass over your area

Captain Rick: The International Space Station is the brightest, fastest moving object in the sky just before dawn or after sunset for those in the perfect, ever-changing location. The ISS, the size of a football field, is the largest structure in earth orbit. The ISS is orbiting about 250 miles up and traveling at a speed of over 17,000 mph. It travels from the western to eastern horizon in less than 10 minutes. It appears to move faster than a commercial plane at cruising altitude and brighter than any star. Its an awesome spectacle that can be observed by almost anyone on earth at the right time.

The ISS revolves around the earth every 93 minutes. It makes 15 revolutions per day. Each pass moves about 1500 miles to the west, due to earths eastward rotation.  Its path follows a sine wave on a ‘flat map’, as shown below, because its orbit is skewed at an angle with reference to earth’s equator. This allows the ISS to fly over areas between 52 degrees latitude north or south of the equator, making it accessible from Russian launch sites, which are farther north than those in the US.

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View the ISS: To view the ISS, it must pass over your area about 1 hour before sunrise or 1 hour after sunset, so that the sun’s rays illuminate it against a dark night sky. Most places on earth will experience one or more good viewings of the ISS each month. The best view of the ISS happens when it passes directly overhead (its closest encounter), during the pre-sunrise/post-sunset window. This is rare occurrence for any given spot on earth…so when it happens in your area, you must be prepared.

Captain Rick’s eyewitness sighting: I witnessed the ISS race over Gilbert, Arizona at 4:48 AM a few days ago. It was the first time I had ever seen it. I was amazed by its speed and brightness. It out-raced and out-shined anything in the sky. The ISS is indeed an experience that everyone should witness.  It only spends a few minutes traveling from one horizon to the other. I caution…to see it, you have to be prepared with its timing and trajectory. I have provided some great tools to help you capture a glimpse of the ISS as it streaks over your area…

Track the ISS as it orbits earth, as seen in the image above: http://www.isstracker.com/

When will the ISS pass over your area?  NASA has the answer. You can sign up for email alerts: http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/#.Ujen9Ojn-cx

Captain Rick presents sighting info and updates in comments below: Check out the comment feed below for great ISS sighting information and eyewitness reports from ISS viewers and yours truly…

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