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 . Space History News - People and events in development of space travel Space History News - People and events in development of space travel Space History News - People and events in development of space travel  

Space History for June 15

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762 B.C.
A solar eclipse was recorded by the Assyrians in a "text" on a clay tablet that has been used to fix the chronology of Mesopotamian history.

Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning is electricity by flying a kite with a key attached to its string in a thunderstorm and charging a Leyden jar from the current on the line. (Don't try this at home!!)

In June 1752, Benjamin Franklin is said to have flown a kite in a thunderstorm to prove that lightning is electricity. Franklin charged a Leyden jar by touching it to a key that was suspended from the kite's string. The kite was not struck by lightning as some accounts report, an event that would almost certainly have killed him. Instead, Franklin noticed that the strands of the kite string were starting to stand out (due to the accumulated static charge) and touched the key with the Leyden jar, proving his point.

The validity of the story has been questioned by some modern researchers, such as Mythbusters claiming that the experiment would necessarily have been fatal. Note, however, that their "reenactment" involved a simulated lighting strike, which did not happen during Franklin's experiment. (See the Wikipedia article, for example, for a more accurate description.)

Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier, co-pilot of the first manned flight (1783), and his companion, Pierre Romain, became the first casualties of an air crash when their hot air balloon exploded during their attempt to cross the English Channel.

Charles Goodyear received US patent number 3633 for the vulcanization of rubber.

C H F Peters discovered asteroid #88 Thisbe.

The first attempt at motion pictures, using 12 cameras each taking one picture, was done to see if all four of a horse's hooves leave the ground in a gallop. Leland Stanford bet they didn't. He lost.

Professor E. E. Barnard first observed a large white spot on Saturn while searching for details that could be used to determine its rotational period.

John Alcock and Arthur Brown completed the first nonstop transatlantic flight, landing at Clifden, County Galway, Ireland.

B Jekhovsky discovered asteroid #1093 Freda.

Born, Einar K. Enevoldson (at Seattle, Washington, USA), NASA test pilot

Test pilot Einar K. Enevoldson, NASA photo

C Jackson discovered asteroids #1278 Kenya and #1279 Uganda.

C Jackson discovered asteroid #1324 Knysna; and K Reinmuth discovered asteroid #1322 Coppernicus.

C Jackson discovered asteroid #1676 Kariba.

Itzigsohn discovered asteroid #1581 Abanderada, #1582 Martir and #1779 Parana.

NASA's TIROS 1 (Television and InfraRed Observation Satellite), the first weather satellite, ceased transmissions due to an electrical failure.

TIROS 1 (Television and InfraRed Observation Satellite), the first weather satellite, launched 1 April 1960, was designed to test the feasibility of obtaining and using TV cloud cover pictures from satellites. The spin-stabilized satellite was 18-sided right prism, 42" (107 cm) across opposite corners and 22" (56 cm) high, with a reinforced baseplate carrying most of the subsystems, and a cover assembly (hat). Spacecraft power was supplied by approximately 9000 0.4"x0.8" (1x2 cm) silicon solar cells mounted on the cover assembly and by 21 nickel-cadmium batteries. A single monopole antenna for reception of ground commands extended out from the top of the cover assembly, and a pair of crossed-dipole telemetry antennas (235 MHz) projected down and diagonally out from the baseplate. Mounted around the edge of the baseplate were five diametrically opposed pairs of small, solid-fuel thrusters that maintained the satellite spin rate between 8 and 12 rpm. The satellite was equipped with two 0.5" (1.27 cm) diameter vidicon TV cameras, one wide angle and one narrow angle, for taking Earth cloud cover pictures. The pictures were transmitted directly to a ground receiving station, or were stored in a tape recorder on board for later playback, depending on whether the satellite was within or beyond the communication range of the station. The satellite performed normally from launch until 15 June 1960, when an electrical power failure prevented further useful TV transmission.

TIROS 1, NASA illustration
full size image (1428x1200 px) at

The Saturn C-1 first stage successfully completed its first series of static tests at the Marshall Space Flight Center with a 122 second firing of all eight H-1 engines.

USSR conducted the first iron test stand firing of the 11D56 liquid hydrogen/LOX engine for the N1M. This was the first USSR test of an engine powered by these propellants for use in a space launch vehicle.

1967 18:09:00 GMT
NASA and the US Air Force launched X-15A HS/Stab/WTR Test/Technology mission # 182 which reached a maximum speed of 5803 kph (Mach 5.14), and a maximum altitude of 69.891 km.

Died, Vasili Vasilyevich Parin, Russian scientist, Director of IMBP 1965-1969, a leading space medicine specialist

NASA Explorer 49 (RAE-B) was inserted into Lunar orbit in preparation for its radio astronomy mission.

The Radio Astronomy Explorer B (RAE-B) mission was the second of a pair of RAE satellites. It was placed into Lunar orbit to provide radio astronomical measurements of the planets, the Sun, and the galaxy over the frequency range of 25 kHz to 13.1 MHz. The experiment complement consisted of two Ryle-Vonberg radiometers (nine channels each), three swept-frequency burst receivers (32 channels each), and an impedance probe for calibration. The experiment antennas consisted of travelling wave antennas forming an X configuration: a 229 meter upper V-antenna pointed away from the Moon; a 229 meter lower V-antenna pointed toward the Moon; and a 37 meter dipole antenna parallel to the Lunar surface. There was also a 129 meter boron libration damper boom system used to damp out any spacecraft oscillations about the equilibrium position. The spacecraft body had a mass of 328 kg at launch and 200 kg in Lunar orbit, a truncated cylinder 92 cm in diameter and approximately 79 cm high, with four fixed solar paddles. The maneuvering system consisted of a hydrazine velocity correction package, a cold gas attitude control system, and a solid fuel Lunar insertion motor. Data were returned to Earth via either a low power UHF (400 MHz) transmitter in real time, or stored in an onboard tape recorder and transmitted via a high power UHF transmitter (also 400 MHz). Two tape recorders provided backup storage. A VHF transmitter served primarily for range and range-rate measurements and as a backup. Commands were received on a VHF (148 MHz) receiver, which also was a part of the range and range-rate system. Spacecraft attitude was determined by (1) a solar aspect system, (2) a horizon sensor system, and (3) a panoramic attitude sensor system, and was accurate to 1 degree. The spacecraft was gravity gradient oriented (Z axis parallel to local vertical).

RAE-B was launched 10 June 1973, placed into Lunar orbit on 15 June after a 20 second firing of the orbit insertion motor, and began operations on 20 June. Initially only the 37 meter dipole antenna was deployed, during which the spacecraft was operated in a 4 rpm spin stabilized mode with the spin axis in the ecliptic plane normal to the spacecraft-Sun line. After three weeks the dipole booms were retracted, the spacecraft reoriented, the long-V antennas and libration damper were extended, and the dipole was redeployed. The lower V-antenna was initially extended to 183 meters during the first 16 months of flight, and was extended to its full 229 meters length in November 1974. The Lunar orbit and position of the Earth as a radio source imposed periodicities on the observations of 29.5 days (the Lunar synodic month) and 24.8 hours (the interval between consecutive sweeps of a given Earth geographic position past the Moon.

1973 06:00:00 GMT
USSR launched Cosmos 573 from Baikonur in a successful test flight to verify safety modifications to the Soyuz 7K-T breathing ventilation valve, probably using one of the spacecraft allocated to the failed Salyut 2 or Cosmos 557 stations.

USSR issued a decree authorizing development of the 11B97 nuclear electric rocket stage.

USSR issued a decree 'On course of work on nuclear rocket engines' on 15 June 1976. The 11B97 stage would have an electric capacity of 500-600 kW and would use specialized plasma-ion electric engines using standing plasma waves and anodes. It was to be powered from a reactor with a 200 litre core containing 30 kg of uranium fuel. In 1978, this engine was also studied for use as a reusable interorbital space tug for launch by Energia-Buran.

See also Russia Thinks It Can Use Nukes to Fly to Mars in 45 Days - If It Can Find the Rubles

1978 20:16:00 GMT
USSR launched Soyuz 29 from Baikonur to Salyut 6 with cosmonauts V. V. Kovalenko and A. S. Ivanchenkov aboard for a 139 day stay, to conduct scientific and technological investigations and experiments.

In the first space shuttle solid rocket booster (SRB) qualification test firing, at Thiokol, Utah, the motor burned for 122 seconds, the nozzle extension was severed at end of the run as in an actual mission, and the gimbals were fully cycled.

1979 16:18:00 GMT
USSR Soyuz 32 landed, returning Lyakhov and Ryumin from their stay at Salyut 6.

1985 03:00:05 GMT
The USSR Vega 2 descent craft landed on the surface of Venus after releasing a balloon aerostat during its descent through the atmosphere.

The Vega mission combined a Venus swingby and a Comet Halley flyby by two identical spacecraft, Vega 1 and Vega 2, which were launched 15 December 1984 and 21 December 1984, respectively. After carrying Venus entry probes to the vicinity of Venus on 11 and 15 June 1985, respectively, the two spacecraft used Venus' gravity to get speed boosts to intercept Comet Halley. The first spacecraft encountered Comet Halley on 6 March 1986, and the second three days later. The flyby velocity was 77.7 km/s. Although the spacecraft could be targeted with a precision of 100 km, the position of the spacecraft relative to the comet nucleus was estimated to be known only to within a few thousand kilometers because of variations in the comet's orbit. This, together with the problem of dust protection, led to estimated flyby distances of 10,000 km for the first spacecraft and 3000 km for the second. Data were taken from 2.5 hours before through 0.5 hours after the closest approaches, with several periods of data taking before and after, each lasting about 2 hours.

The Venus instrumentation packages each consisted of a sphere 240 cm in diameter, which separated from the spacecraft bus two days before arrival at Venus and entered the planet's atmosphere on an inclined path, without active maneuvers, as was done on previous Venera missions. The lander probes (identical to those of Venera 9 through 14) had two objectives, the study of the atmosphere and the study of the superficial crust. In addition to temperature and pressure measuring instruments, the descent probes carried a UV spectrometer for measurement of minor atmospheric constituents, an instrument dedicated to measurement of the concentration of H2O, and other instruments for determination of the chemical composition of the condensed phase: a gas-phase chromatograph; an X-ray spectrometer observing the fluorescence of grains or drops; and a mass spectrograph measuring the chemical composition of the grains or drops. The X-ray spectrometer separated the grains according to their sizes using a laser imaging device, while the mass spectrograph separated them according to their sizes using an aerodynamical inertial separator. A toroidal system similar to that on Veneras 13 and 14 was designed to absorb shock on landing. After landing, a small surface sample near the probe was to be analyzed by gamma spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence. The UV spectrometer, the mass spectrograph, and the pressure- and temperature-measuring instruments were developed in cooperation between French and Soviet investigators.

After separation, the Vega 1 lander entered the Venus atmosphere on 11 June 1985 at 01:59:49 UT at 10.75 km/s with an entry angle of 18.23 degrees. The pilot parachute was deployed at 02:00:27 UT at an altitude of 65 km and the braking parachute opened 11 seconds later at 64.5 km. The upper heat protection hemisphere was released at that time and the lower hemisphere 4 seconds later at 64.2 km. The upper hemisphere contained the deployment system for the balloon aerostat. The parachute was released at 02:09:37 at 47 km, after which the lander used aerobraking to descend through the thick Venus atmosphere, with drag devices minimizing vibrations and spin and providing stability. At an altitude of 18 km a mechanical shock of unknown origin (possibly due to a jammed valve in an upper compartment suddenly releasing) triggered a ground-contact accelerometer which caused early deployment of the soil drill of the X-ray flourescence spectrometer. The drill was rendered unusable at landing due to the premature deployment. The lander touched down at 03:02:54 UT on 11 June 1985 at 7.5 N, 177.7 E, just north of eastern Aphrodite Terra. The altitude of the touchdown site was 0.6 km below the planetary mean radius, the measured pressure at the landing site was 95 atm and the temperature was 740 K.

After separation, the Vega 2 lander entered the Venus atmosphere on 15 June 1985 at 01:59:30 UT at 10.80 km/s with an entry angle of 19.08 degrees. The pilot parachute was deployed at 02:00:05 UT at an altitude of 65 km and the braking parachute opened 11 seconds later at 64.5 km. The upper heat protection hemisphere was released at that time and the lower hemisphere 4 seconds later at 64.2 km. The upper hemisphere contained the deployment system for the balloon aerostat. The parachute was released at 02:09:15 at 47 km, after which the lander used aerobraking while descending through the thick Venus atmosphere, with drag devices minimizing vibrations and spin and providing stability. The lander touched down at 03:00:50 UT on 15 June 1985 at 8.5 S, 164.5 E, in eastern Aphrodite Terra. The altitude of the touchdown site was 0.1 km above the planetary mean radius, and the measured pressure and temperature at the landing site were 91 atm and 736 K. The surface sample was found to be an anorthosite-troctolite.

In addition to the lander probes, constant-pressure instrumented balloon aerostats were deployed immediately after entry into the atmosphere at an altitude of 54 km. Each 3.4 meter diameter balloon supported a total mass of 25 kg, including a 5 kg payload that hung suspended 12 meters below the balloon. It floated at approximately 50 km altitude in the middle, most active layer of the Venus three-tiered cloud system. Data from the balloon instruments were transmitted directly to Earth for the lifetime of the mission. Onboard instruments were to measure temperature, pressure, vertical wind velocity, and visibility (density of local aerosols). Very long baseline interferometry was used to track the motion of the balloon to provide the wind velocity in the clouds. Tracking was done by a 6 station network on Soviet territory and by a network of 12 stations distributed world-wide (organized by France and the NASA Deep Space Network). The balloons measured downward gusts of 1 meter/s and showed horizontal wind velocities up to 240 km/hr. After two days and 9000 km, the balloons entered the dayside of Venus where they expanded and burst due to solar heating.

Vega 1:
Vega 2:

1988 11:19:01 GMT
The first test flight of the Ariane 4 launcher, from Kourou, carried the Meteosat 3 weather and Panamsat 1 commercial communications satellites to geostationary orbit, and the AMSAT-OSCAR 13 amateur radio satellite into a 37995x809 km orbit.

Died, John Vincent Atanasoff, computer pioneer (built the first electronic digital computer, the Atanasoff Berry Computer (ABC), in November 1939)

Died, Gerhard Drawe, German rocket engineer, expert in guided missiles during World War II, member of the German Rocket Team in the United States after the war, at Fort Bliss, White Stands, and Huntsville, Alabama

1996 06:55:00 GMT
The Intelsat 709 communications satellite was launched from Kourou, and positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 50 deg W in 1996-1999. As of 4 September 2001, it was at 49.96 deg W, drifting at 0.015 deg W per day.

2002 22:39:00 GMT
The Galaxy 3C communications satellite was launched on a Zenit-3SL booster from the Odyssey sea launch platform off Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the Pacific Ocean.

The Galaxy 3C launch was delayed from July 2001 and 28 May, 2 June, and 9 June 2002. The satellite was launched 15 June 2002 from the Odyssey floating launch platform at its standard equatorial location at 154W 0N. The Zenit second stage and the DM third stage with payload entered a -2160 x 195 km suborbital trajectory at 2248:10. At about 2252 UTC the DM stage entered a 180 x 393 km x 0 deg parking orbit. A second burn of the DM at 2324 to 2330 UTC put Galaxy 3C in a 358 x 41440 km x 0.02 deg transfer orbit. This was a record low inclination for a geostationary transfer orbit. The satellite's R-4D apogee engine was to put the Boeing BSS-702 satellite in geostationary orbit. The satellite was the first 702 model to use extra solar panels instead of the solar concentrators which ran into fogging problems on the earlier 702 flights.

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