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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 September 15

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According to mathematical calculations, Pluto moved outside Neptune's orbit, where it remained the outermost planet until 1979.

R. Luther discovered asteroid #47 Aglaja.

A. Charlois discovered asteroid #373 Melusina.

M. Wolf and A. Schwassmann discovered asteroid #457 Alleghenia.

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid #2896.

The "Group for the Study of Reaction Propulsion" (GIRD) was founded in Leningrad in the Soviet Union.

E. Delporte discovered asteroid #1291 Phryne.

Born, Miroslaw Hermaszewski (at Lipniki, Poland), Soviet cosmonaut (Soyuz 30/Salyut 6 EP3, 7d 22h in space), first Polish cosmonaut

F. Rigaux discovered asteroid #1555 Dejan.

Werner von Braun's report "A Minimum Satellite Vehicle Based on Components Available from Developments of the Army Ordnance Corps" proposed spending (only) $100,000 to launch a satellite on a Redstone booster.

1959 21:45:00 GMT
Jupiter Bioflight 3 was launched carrying NASA biological specimens, including 14 mice; the flight was erratic at lift-off, the missile destroyed itself at T+13 seconds, just before command destruct, caused by a failed pressure sphere solder connection.

1966 08:59:35 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA's Gemini 11 mission ended when the capsule splashed down in the western Atlantic Ocean, returning astronauts Charles "Pete" Conrad and Richard Gordon safely to Earth after a largely successful mission.

Gemini 11 was the ninth crewed Earth orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series, carrying astronauts Charles "Pete" Conrad and Richard Gordon. The 3-day mission was designed to achieve a first orbit rendezvous and docking with the Agena target vehicle, to accomplish two ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) tests, to perform docking practice, docked configuration maneuvers, tethered operations, parking of the Agena target vehicle and demonstrate an automatic reentry. There were also eight scientific and four technological experiments on board. The scientific experiments were (1) synergistic effect of zero-g and radiation on white blood cells, (2) synoptic terrain photography, (3) synoptic weather photography, (4) nuclear emulsions, (5) airglow horizon photography, (6) UV astronomical photography, (7) Gemini ion wake measurement, and (8) dim sky photography.

Gemini 11 was launched on 12 September 1966 at 9:42:26 AM EST (14:42:26.546 UT) from Complex 19, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and inserted into a 160.5 x 279.1 km Earth orbit at 9:48:28. Five spacecraft maneuvers were made to rendezvous with the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle 11 (GATV-11) at 11:07 AM EST (1:25 Ground Elapsed Time, GET). The GATV-11 had been launched an hour and a half before Gemini 11. Docking was completed at 11:16 AM EST on the first orbit, consuming less fuel than expected. Each astronaut then conducted two docking exercises with the GATV, and then a maneuver at 2:14:14 PM EST brought the docked spacecraft into a 287 x 304 km orbit. The astronaut's first sleep period was spent in docked configuration.

On 13 September at 9:44 AM EST (24:02 GET), the Gemini cabin atmosphere was evacuated and the hatch opened to begin Richard Gordon's scheduled 107 minute EVA. He was out of the hatch at 9:51 AM EST, attached by an umbilical cord. He set up a movie camera and retrieved the micrometeorite experiment. The next task, detaching one end of the 30 meter tether from the Agena and attaching it to the Gemini spacecraft docking bar, proved to be exhausting and overstressed Gordon's life support system. After attaching the tether, Gordon stopped to rest astride the GATV, but the heavy perspiration inside the suit obscured his vision, and finally blinded his right eye. Conrad ordered him to cancel the power tool evaluation and return to the cabin. Gordon returned to the cabin at about 10:12 AM EST, and closed the hatch at 10:17 AM EST so the cabin could be repressurized. At 11:19 AM EST, the hatch was opened again to jettison some excess equipment.

Following the second sleep period, the Agena primary propulsion system was fired for 25 seconds at 2:12:41 AM EST on 14 September, raising the docked spacecraft apogee to 1374.1 km. (This was a record altitude for an astronaut mission that would stand until Apollo 8 went to the Moon in December 1968.) From the elevated orbit, the astronauts were got the first manned views of the Earth as a sphere. After two orbits, the Agena was fired again for 22.5 seconds to lower the Gemini-Agena back down to a 287 x 304 km orbit. At 7:49 AM EST, Gordon opened his hatch to begin a 2 hour 8 minute standup EVA during which he conducted photographic experiments. The hatch was closed at 9:57 AM EST, and shortly afterwards, the spacecraft were undocked and Gemini 11 moved to the end of the 30 meter tether attaching the two spacecraft. At 11:55 AM EST, Conrad initiated a slow rotation of the Gemini capsule about the GATV which kept the tether taut and the spacecraft a constant distance apart at the ends of the tether. Oscillations occurred initially, but damped out after about 20 minutes. The rotation rate was then increased, oscillations again occurred but damped out and the combination stabilized. The circular motion at the end of the tether imparted a slight artificial "gravitational acceleration" within Gemini 11, the first time such artificial gravity was demonstrated in space. After about three hours, the tether was released and the spacecraft moved apart. A fuel cell stack failed at 4:13 PM EST, but the remaining stacks took over the load satisfactorally. At 4:22 AM EST on 15 September, a final re-rendezvous maneuver, without use of the rendezvous radar (which had malfunctioned) was accomplished.

Retrofire occurred at the end of the 44th revolution at 8:24:03 AM EST on 15 September. This was the first closed-loop, automatic reentry (guided by computer commands directly to the thrusters) in the US space program. Splashdown in the western Atlantic at 24.25 N, 70.00 W, 4.9 km from the target point, occurred at 8:59:35 AM EST. The crew was picked up by helicopter and brought to the USS Guam at 9:23 AM EST, and the spacecraft was recovered at 9:58 AM EST. Total mission elapsed time was 71:17:08. All primary objectives were accomplished, with the last re-rendezvous added to the mission plan due to the favorable fuel supply. The power tool evaluation was not performed due to early EVA termination, and the airglow horizon photography was only partially done due to a fault in the camera. All other experiments were successfully completed.

B. Burnasheva discovered asteroid #2232 Altaj.

1976 09:48:00 GMT
USSR launched Soyuz 22 from Baikonur, a surplus ASTP spacecraft with a multi-spectral camera made by Carl Zeiss-Jena in place of the universal docking apparatus, manned by cosmonauts Aksyonov and Bykovsky, who photographed the Earth for eight days.

A. Mrkos discovered asteroid #3276; E. Bowell discovered asteroids #2815 Soma and #3693.

1987 10:30:00 GMT
USSR launched Cosmos 1882 from Plesetsk, a Resurs landsat used for investigation of the natural resources of the Earth, in the interests of various branches of the national economy of the USSR and international cooperation.

1989 06:30:00 GMT
USSR launched Bion 9 (Cosmos 2044) from Plesetsk, the last LC41 launch. The 7th Soviet Biosatellite carrying joint US/USSR experiments conducted 29 experiments on 2 monkeys, rats, fish, amphibians, insects, worms, protozoans, cell cultures and plants.

Died, Hans Walter Milde, rocket engineer, German expert in guided missiles during World War II, member of the German Rocket Team in the US after the war

NASA's Magellan satellite began mapping Venus from its orbit around the planet.

Magellan, launched 4 May 1989 aboard NASA's shuttle Atlantis, was a unique mission, being the first dedicated US mission to study the surface of Venus in detail, using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). Because Magellan was intended to be a low cost mission, major components of the spacecraft were obtained from flight spares from other programs including Galileo, Viking, Voyager, Mariner, Skylab, Ulysses, and even the shuttle. Designed as a follow-up to the mapping portion of the Pioneer Venus mission, Magellan's purpose was to: (1) obtain near-global radar images of Venus' surface with a resolution equivalent to optical imaging of 1 km per line pair; (2) obtain a near-global topographic map with 50 km spatial and 100 m vertical resolution; (3) obtain near-global gravity field data with 700 km resolution and 2-3 milligals (1 gal = 1 cm/s**2) accuracy; and, (4) develop an understanding of the geological structure of the planet, including its density distribution and dynamics.

Magellan reached Venus and went into orbit on 10 August 1990. The initial phase of the mission (Cycle 1) began shortly after orbital insertion about Venus and lasted for eight months (15 September 1990 through 15 May 1991). During this cycle, Magellan collected radar images of about 84% of the planet's surface. Cycle 2 lasted from the end of cycle 1 until 15 January 1992, during which the spacecraft obtained images of the southern polar region and filled numerous gaps left in the cycle 1 information. Cycle 3 began on 24 January 1992 and lasted until 15 September 1992, during which the remaining gaps from cycle 1 were filled in as well as providing data which, in combination with earlier data, could be used to produce stereo images of the surface. Cycle 4 lasted from 15 September 1992 to May 1993 and consisted of gravity data acquisition from the elliptical orbit. An aerobraking maneuver, in which Magellan was dipped into the Venus atmosphere to shed orbital energy and bring the spacecraft into a more circular orbit, was performed from 24 May until 2 August 1993. At the end of aerobraking, the orbit had a periapsis of 180 km, an apoapsis of 540 km, and a period of 94 minutes. Cycle 5 was used to acquire gravity data from this orbit from 3 August 1993 until 29 August 1994, giving high-resolution gravity data for about 95% of the planet. In September 1994, the Windmill experiment took place, in which the solar panels were tilted at an angle so that atmospheric drag put a torque on the craft, which could be measured to give information about the atmospheric density at different altitudes.

Magellan began its final descent into the atmosphere of Venus on 11 October 1994. On 12 October 1994, radio contact with Magellan was lost, and the spacecraft presumably burned up in the atmosphere on 13 or 14 October 1994.

By the end of the mission, over 99% of the planet's surface had been mapped by RADAR with a resolution ten times better than that obtained by the earlier Soviet Venera 15 and 16 missions.

The final Magellan Status Reports can be accessed through

During the 3h 33m Mir EO-12-4 EVA, cosmonauts Solovyov and Avdeyev installed the Kurs docking system antenna on the Kristall module of the Mir space station.

1998 20:00:00 GMT
During the 30m Mir EO-26-1 "IVA", Padalka and Avdeyev donned spacesuits, depressurized Mir's PKhO compartment in the core module, entered the dead Spektr module, reconnected solar panel steering cables, then closed the hatch and repressurized the PKhO.

2002 10:30:00 GMT
China launched HTSTL-1 from Taiyuan, the first attempted launch of the solid propellant KT-1 launch vehicle, which suffered a second stage failure. The 50 kg test satellite, built by university students, was to have been placed in a 300 km polar orbit.

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