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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 21

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Born, John MacAdam, Scottish engineer and road builder (macadam road construction)

Born, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, Dutch physicist (liquid helium, extreme refrigeration, superconductivity, Nobel 1913 "for his investigations on the properties of matter at low temperatures which led, inter alia, to the production of liquid helium")

Born, H. G. Wells, British science fiction author (The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine)

J. Perrotin discovered asteroid #149 Medusa.

J. Palisa discovered asteroid #269 Justitia.

M. Wolf and A. Schwassmann discovered asteroid #458 Hercynia.

L. Carnera discovered asteroid #478 Tergeste.

A. Kopff discovered asteroid #672 Astarte; J. Palisa discovered asteroid #671 Carnegia.

A. Kopff discovered asteroid #693 Zerbinetta.

Born, Donald A. Glaser, American physicist (Nobel 1960 "for the invention of the bubble chamber")

G. Neujmin discovered asteroid #1123 Shapleya.

P. Shajn discovered asteroid #1475 Yalta.

Y. Vaisala discovered asteroids #1495 Helsinki and #1928 Summa.

E. Delporte discovered asteroid #1543 Bourgeois; S. Arend discovered asteroid #2231 Durrell; Y. Vaisala discovered asteroids #2379 Heiskanen, #2454 Olaus Magnus and #3522.

Born, Bjarni Valdimar Tryggvason (at Reykjavik, Iceland), CSA payload specialist astronaut (STS 85, over 11d 20h in space)

The German Consortium for Rocket Technology ('Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur Raketentechnik' - AFRA, later DAFRA) was founded by Friedrich Staats and 11 other enthusiasts in Bremen.

Born, Richard James "Rick" Hieb (at Jamestown, North Dakota, USA), NASA astronaut (STS 39, STS 49, STS 65, over 31d 22h total time in space)

Astronaut Rick Hieb, NASA photo

1960 13:02:00 GMT
The first USAF Blue Scout rocket was fired from Cape Canaveral, Florida, which lofted its Radiation Probe (HETS) payload 16,600 miles above the Earth, the first of 11 such tests, but no data were received due to a radio malfunction.

1968 16:08:00 GMT
USSR's Zond 5 splashed down in the Indian Ocean, returning from the first successful circumlunar Earth return mission.

Zond 5 was launched 14 September 1968 from a Tyazheliy Sputnik (68-076B) in Earth parking orbit to make scientific studies during a Lunar flyby and to return to Earth, an unmanned test flight of the Soviet manned spacecraft equipment. En route to the Moon, the main stellar attitude control optical surface became contaminated and was rendered unusable. Backup sensors were used to guide the spacecraft. On 18 September 1968, the spacecraft flew around the Moon, the closest approach being 1,950 km. High quality photographs of the Earth were taken from a distance of 90,000 km.

A biological payload of turtles, wine flies, meal worms, plants, seeds, bacteria, and other living matter was included in the flight. According to the Russian Academy of Sciences, the pilot's seat was occupied by a 175 cm tall, 70 kg mannequin containing radiation detectors.

Returning to Earth, the gyroscopic platform went off line due to a ground operator error, making the planned guided entry impossible, forcing the spacecraft controllers to use a direct ballistic entry. Unlike the Zond 4 mission, which had re-entered over western Africa in April, the self destruct command was not given. On 21 September 1968, the reentry capsule entered Earth's atmosphere. Communications with Zond 5 were lost as it re-entered over the South Pole. It had to re-enter at an angle of 5 to 6 degrees to the horizontal: One degree too high, and it would skip off the atmosphere and be lost into space; one degree too low and the G-forces would increase from 10-16 to 30-40 - not only enough to kill the "crew," but to destroy the spacecraft. The safe entry corridor was only 13 km across, and had to be hit at 11 km/sec - "like hitting a kopek [Russian penny] with a rifle at a 600 meter range." After the ballistic 20G re-entry, the capsule braked aerodynamically, deployed parachutes at 7 km, and splashed down in the backup area in the Indian Ocean at 32.63 degrees S, 65.55 degrees E. Soviet naval vessels were 100 km from the landing location and successfully recovered the spacecraft the next day, shipping it via Bombay (3 October 1968 aboard the Vasiliy Golovnin) back to Soviet Union, safely returning the biological payload to Moscow on 4 October 1968.

It was announced that the turtles (actually steppe tortoises) had lost about 10% of their body weight, but remained active and showed no loss of appetite.

The mission was planned as a precursor to manned Soviet Lunar spacecraft flights.

1970 07:43:00 GMT
USSR's Luna 16 ascent stage lifted off from the Moon, carrying the first Lunar sample returned by a robotic probe.

Luna 16 was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample to Earth, the first Lunar sample return mission by the Soviet Union, and the third Lunar sample return overall, following the Apollo 11 and 12 missions. The spacecraft consisted of two attached stages, an ascent stage mounted on top of a descent stage. The descent stage was a cylindrical body with four protruding landing legs, fuel tanks, a landing radar, and a dual descent engine complex. A main descent engine was used to slow the craft until it reached a cutoff point, determined by the onboard computer based on altitude and velocity. After cutoff, a bank of lower thrust jets was used for the final landing. The descent stage also acted as a launch pad for the ascent stage. The ascent stage was a smaller cylinder with a rounded top. It carried a cylindrical hermetically sealed soil sample container inside a re-entry capsule. The spacecraft descent stage was equipped with a television camera, radiation and temperature monitors, telecommunications equipment, and an extendable arm with a drilling rig for collecting the Lunar soil sample.

Luna 16 was launched toward the Moon from a preliminary Earth orbit on 12 September 1970, and after one mid-course correction on 13 September, it entered a circular 111 km Lunar orbit on 17 September 1970. The Lunar gravity was studied from this orbit, and then the spacecraft was fired into an elliptical orbit with a perilune of 15.1 km. The main braking engine was fired using a timed burn on 20 September, initiating the descent to the Lunar surface. At an altitude of 600 meters, the new-design braking rocket was automatically controlled according to height and velocity as measured by radar. The main descent engine cut off at an altitude of 20 meters and the landing jets cut off at 2 meters height at a velocity less than 2.4 m/s (14 mph), followed by vertical free-fall. At 05:18 UT, the spacecraft soft landed on the Lunar surface in Mare Foecunditatis (the Sea of Fertility) as planned, approximately 100 km west of Webb crater. Getting there had required 68 communications sessions over nine days of flight. This was the first landing made in the dark on the Moon, as the Sun had set about 60 hours earlier. According to the Bochum Radio Space Observatory in the Federal Republic of Germany, strong and good quality television pictures were returned by the spacecraft. However, since the pictures were not made available to the US by any sources, there is a question of the reliability of the Bochum report. The drill was deployed at 10:00 UT and penetrated to a depth of 35 cm before encountering hard rock or large fragments of rock. The column of regolith in the drill tube was then transferred to the soil sample container. After 26 hours and 25 minutes on the Lunar surface, the ascent stage, with the hermetically sealed soil sample container, lifted off from the Moon carrying 101 grams of collected material at 07:43 UT on 21 September. The lower stage of Luna 16 remained on the Lunar surface and continued transmission of Lunar temperature and radiation data. The Luna 16 re-entry capsule returned directly to Earth without any mid-course corrections, made a ballistic entry into the Earth's atmosphere on 24 September 1970 and deployed parachutes. The capsule landed approximately 80 km SE of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan at 03:26 UT, only 30 km from its aim point. There was ideal weather in the recovery area, the radio beacon worked well, and a helicopter picked up the capsule only a few minutes after landing.

J. Gibson discovered asteroid #2035 Stearns.

Felix Aguilar Observatory discovered asteroid #3438.

NASA's Mariner 10 passed Mercury at a range of 29,850 miles (48,069 km) on its second encounter with the planet.

Mariner 10 was the seventh successful launch in the Mariner series, the first spacecraft to use the gravitational pull of one planet (Venus) to reach another (Mercury), and the first spacecraft mission to visit two planets. Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft to visit Mercury. The spacecraft flew by Mercury three times in a retrograde heliocentric orbit and returned images and data on the planet. Mariner 10 returned the first-ever close-up images of Venus and Mercury. The primary scientific objectives of the mission were to measure Mercury's environment, atmosphere, surface, and body characteristics and to make similar investigations of Venus. Secondary objectives were to perform experiments in the interplanetary medium and to obtain experience with a dual-planet gravity-assist mission.

Mariner 10 was launched 3 November 1973 on a mission to explore Mercury and Venus. The television and ultraviolet experiments were trained on the comet Kohoutek while the spacecraft was en route to its destination. Using a near-ultraviolet filter, it produced photographs of the Venusian chevron clouds, and performed other atmospheric studies. Mariner 10 took 4,000 photos of Venus, which revealed a nearly round planet enveloped in smooth cloud layers. On 29 March and 21 September 1974, and 16 March 1975, Mariner 10 passed Mercury, and was able to map 40-45% of the planet. Its radiometer readings suggested Mercury has a nighttime temperatures of -297 degrees F (-183 degrees C) and maximum daytime temperatures of 368 F (187 C). The closest encounter with Mercury on the first pass was at 2047 UT on 29 March 1974 at a range of 436.5 miles (703 kilometers). Having looped around the Sun, Mariner 10 flew by Mercury again on 21 September 1974 at a range of 29,850 miles (48,069 kilometers), and photographed the sunlit side of the planet and the south polar region. The spacecraft used solar pressure on its solar panels and high-gain antenna for attitude control. A third and final encounter, the closest to Mercury, took place on 16 March 1975 at a range of 203 miles (327 kilometers). Contact with the spacecraft was terminated on 24 March 1975.

Mariner 10 (also known as Mariner Venus Mercury 1973) was placed in a parking orbit after launch for approximately 25 minutes, then placed in orbit around the Sun en route to Venus. The protective cover of the sunward-facing electrostatic analyzers did not open fully after launch, and these intruments, part of the Scanning Electrostatic Analyzer and Electron Spectrometer experiment, could not be used. It was also discovered that the heaters for the television cameras had failed, so the cameras were left on to prevent low temperatures from damaging the optics.

A trajectory correction maneuver was made 10 days after launch. Immediately following this manuever the star-tracker locked onto a bright flake of paint which had come off the spacecraft and lost lock on the guide star Canopus. An automated safety protocol recovered Canopus, but the problem of flaking paint recurred throughout the mission. The on-board computer also experienced unscheduled resets occasionally, which would neccesitate reconfiguring the clock sequence and subsystems. Periodic problems with the high-gain antenna also occurred during the cruise. In January 1974, Mariner 10 made ultraviolet observations of Comet Kohoutek and another mid-course correction was made on 21 January. The spacecraft passed Venus at 1701 UT on 5 February 1974 at a closest range of 5768 km, and returned the first close-up images of Venus. This also marked the first time a spacecraft used a gravity assist from one planet to help it reach another.

Enroute to Mercury an attitude control anomaly occurred for the second time, using up much of the attitude control gas. Some new procedures were used from that point on to orient the spacecraft, including Sun-line maneuvers and the use of solar wind on the solar panels to orient the spacecraft. Mariner 10 crossed the orbit of Mercury at 2046 UT on 29 March 1974, at a distance of about 704 km from the surface. A second encounter with Mercury, when more photographs were taken, occurred on 21 September 1974, at an altitude of 48,069 km. Unfortunately, the lighted hemisphere was almost the same as the first encounter, so a large portion of the planet remained unimaged. A third and last Mercury encounter at an altitude of 327 km, with additional photography of about 300 frames and magnetic field measurements occurred on 16 March 1975. Engineering tests were continued until 24 March 1975, when the supply of attitude-control gas was depleted and the mission was terminated.

Mariner 10 results showed a Hadley-type circulation existed in Venus' atmosphere and showed that Venus had at best a weak magnetic field, and the ionosphere interacted with the solar wind to form a bow shock. At Mercury, it was confirmed the planet had only a faint atmosphere of mostly helium, and an intensely cratered, dormant Moon-like surface was shown in the images. Mercury was shown to have a small magnetic field and a relatively large iron-rich core.

1981 13:12:00 GMT
The French Aureol 3 experimental satellite was launched from Plesetsk to investigate physical processes in the Earth's magnetosphere and ionosphere, and study polar aurorae, with experiments developed under the joint Soviet-French "Arkad-3" project.

1984 22:18:00 GMT
The Galaxy-C communications satellite was launched on a Delta booster from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 94 deg W.

2000 10:21:00 GMT
NASA launched the NOAA 16 weather satellite into a polar orbit from Vandenburg, California.

NOAA 16, launched 21 September 2000, continued the fourth generation of the operational, polar orbiting, meteorological satellite series (NOAA K-N) operated by the National Environmental Satellite Service (NESS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA 16 also continued the series of Advanced TIROS-N (ATN) spacecraft begun with the launch of NOAA-8 (NOAA-E) in 1983, but with additional new and improved instrumentation over the NOAA A-J series, and a new launch vehicle (Titan II). The two stage Titan II launch vehicle, serial 23G-13, put NOAA-L into a suborbital -2500 x 800 km x 98.0 degree trajectory. The spacecraft's Thiokol Star 37XFP solid motor fired at apogee to circularize the sun-synchronous orbit at 800 km, with NOAA 16 in a morning equator crossing orbit, intended to replace NOAA-J as the prime morning spacecraft. The goal of the NOAA/NESS polar orbiting program was to provide output products used in meteorological prediction and warning, oceanographic and hydrologic services, and space environment monitoring. The polar orbiting system complemented the NOAA/NESS geostationary meteorological satellite program (GOES). The NOAA 16 Advanced TIROS-N spacecraft was based on the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Block 5D spacecraft, and was a modified version of the ATN spacecraft (NOAA 6-11, I-J) to accomodate the new instrumentation, supporting antennas and electrical subsystems. The spacecraft structure consists of four components: (1) the Reaction System Support (RSS); (2) the Equipment Support Module (ESM); (3) the Instrument Mounting Platform (IMP); and (4) the Solar Array (SA). All of the instruments are located on the ESM and the IMP. Spacecraft power is provided by a direct energy transfer system from the single solar array, which is comprised of eight panels of solar cells. The in-orbit Attitude Determination and Control Subsystem (ADACS) provides three-axis pointing control by controlling torque in three mutually orthogonal momentum wheels, with input from the Earth Sensor Assembly (ESA) for pitch, roll, and yaw updates. The ADACS controls the spacecraft attitude so that orientation of the three axes is maintained to within +/- 0.2 degrees, and pitch, roll, and yaw to within 0.1 degree. The ADACS consists of the Earth Sensor Assembly (ESA), the Sun Sensor Assembly (SSA), four Reaction Wheel Assemblies (RWA), two roll/yaw coils (RYC), two pitch torquing coils (PTC), four gyros, and computer software for data processing. The ATN data handling subsystem consists of the TIROS Information Processor (TIP) for low data rate instruments, the Manipulated Information Rate Processor (MIRP) for high data rate AVHRR, digital tape recorders (DTR), and a cross strap unit (XSU). The NOAA 16 instrument complement consists of: (1) an improved six channel Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer/3 (AVHRR/3); (2) an improved High Resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder (HIRS/3); (3) the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System (S&R), which consists of the Search and Rescue Repeater (SARR) and the Search and Rescue Processor (SARP-2); (4) the French/CNES-provided improved ARGOS Data Collection System (DCS-2); (5) the Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet Spectral radiometer (SBUV/2); and (6) the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU), which consists of three separate modules, A1, A2, and B to replace the previous MSU and SSU instruments.

2001 18:49:00 GMT
An Orbital Sciences Taurus 2110 booster launched from Vandenburg, California, carrying four satellites failed to reach a sustainable orbit because of a problem which occurred a few seconds after the first stage separation.

An Orbital Sciences Taurus 2110 booster launched from Vandenburg, California, carrying four satellites, suffered a problem a few seconds after first stage separation caused the T6 rocket to go off course. It recovered, and the remainder of the stages fired, but the final cutoff velocity was too low to reach a sustainable orbit. The Castor 120 zero stage was on course, but the Orion 50S first stage motor went off course. The satellites separated from the final stage as planned, but burned up in the Earth's atmosphere northeast of Madagascar before completing the first orbit. The final orbit was about 75-80 km x 425-430 km x 97 degrees.

The failed launch included:

1) The Orbview-4 imaging satellite, built by Orbital, was a 368 kg box-shaped spacecraft carrying a 1 meter resolution panchromatic camera and an 8 meter resolution 200 channel hyperspectral imager with a 0.45 meter aperture. It was to be used by the US Air Force.

2) The QuikTOMS satellite was a NASA-GSFC project carrying the TOMS-5 ozone mapper. QuikTOMS used a 168 kg double Microstar bus, and was to have replaced TOMS instruments on a delayed Russian weather satellite and the failed ADEOS. The loss of QuikTOMS "put a hole" in NASA's attempts to monitor the ozone layer.

3) SBD, the Orbital Sciences' Special Bus Design, a 73 kg satellite, was a test version of an enlarged Microstar bus. It would have remained attached to the third stage, together with two Celestis burial canisters containing cremated human remains, and an experimental third stage avionics box.

4) Celestis-4 consisted of two Celestis burial canisters containing cremated human remains. After the launch vehicle failure, Celestis guaranteed a relaunch of "back-up remains." (??)

2003 11:57:00 PDT (GMT -7:00:00)
NASA's Galileo probe plunged into the atmosphere of Jupiter, ending its 14 year mission at the planet.

Space Shuttle Atlantis, with the Galileo spacecraft aboard, was launched from Kennedy Space Center on 18 October 1989. Galileo was deployed on the 6th orbit around the Earth, with the first stage IUS burn executed an hour later. The second stage IUS burn occurred 5 minutes later to place Galileo on an Earth escape velocity of 7.1 miles/sec. 7 hours 46 minutes after launch, the IUS went into a first stage spinoff to deploy the RTG and science booms. The second stage IUS spinoff at a rate of 2.9 revolutions/minute for the separation of the IUS from Galileo soon followed. At that point, telemetry data were transmitted and received by the DSN (Deep Space Network).

The Galileo mission consisted of two spacecraft: an orbiter and an atmospheric probe. The trajectory which the spacecraft followed was called a VEEGA (Venus-Earth-Earth Gravity Assist), traveling first in toward the Sun for a gravity assist from Venus on 10 February 1990 before encountering the Earth two times on 8 December 1990 and two years later, on 8 December 1992. These encounters with Venus and the Earth allowed Galileo to gain enough velocity to get it out to Jupiter.

During the flybys of Venus and the Earth, Galileo scientists studied these two planets as well as the Moon, making some unprecedented observations. In addition, following each Earth flyby, Galileo made excursions as far out in the solar system as the asteroid belt, enabling scientists to make the first close-up studies of two asteroids, Gaspra (29 October 1991) and Ida (28 August 1993). Galileo scientists were also the only ones with a "direct view" of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragment impacts on Jupiter in July 1994. All of this was prior to the primary missions of sending an atmospheric probe into Jupiter's atmosphere and studying Jupiter, its satellites, and its magnetosphere for two years with the orbiter.

Interplanetary studies were also made sporadically by some of the other Galileo instruments, including the dust detector, magnetometer, and various plasma and particles detectors, during its six year journey to Jupiter.

The probe was released from the orbiter on 12 July 1995, 147 days prior to its entry into the Jovian atmosphere on 7 December 1995, the same day the main spacecraft went into orbit around Jupiter.

The Galileo spacecraft's 14-year odyssey came to an end on Sunday 21 September 2003 when the spacecraft passed into Jupiter's shadow then disintegrated in the planet's dense atmosphere after 35 orbits around the planet. Its propellant was depleted, it was maneuvered to enter the Jovian atmosphere at 18:57 GMT (11:57 AM PDT). Entry was at 48.2 km/s from an orbit with a periapsis 9700 km below the 1-bar atmospheric layer. The spacecraft continued transmitting at least until it passed behind the limb of Jupiter at 1850:54 GMT, when it was 9283 km above the 1-bar level, surprising Galileo veterans who feared it might enter safe mode due to the high radiation environment. On its farewell dive, it had crossed the orbit of Callisto at around 1100 on 20 September, the orbit of Ganymede at around 0500 on 21 September, Europa's orbit at about 1145, Io's orbit at about 1500, Amalthea's orbit at 1756, and the orbits of Adrastea and Metis at 1825. Galileo was destroyed to prevent the possibility that its orbit would eventually be perturbed in such a way that it would crash on and biologically contaminate Europa, which was considered a possible place to search for life. Light travel time from Jupiter to Earth was 52 min 20 sec at the time of impact, and the final signal reached Earth at 1943:14 GMT.

See also for more images and information about the asteroid Gaspra encounter.

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