Månedsarkiv: marts 2014

Tornado

Saturday, the remaining group in Cape Canaveral got a taste of the southern wild weather as a tornado warning took them by surprise. Jürgen and Christian from Airbus were leaving for Germany but before the flight they took a trip to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge together with Jessica. They noticed the dark clouds as they entered into the wild, and they noticed the rain approaching though they didn’t connect it with danger. The wind picked up and suddenly Christian received a tornado warning on his phone. “Take cover now! If you wait to hear or see it coming…it might be too late to get to a safe place” was some of the wording. They all rushed home. No tornado was seen and Christian and Jürgen made it home to Germany in safety.

rain alligator

A not so nervous Alligator. Maybe it has seen a tornado or two already.

Tornado warning

Tornado warning on Christian’s phone

 

Postponed again, no it’s not a joke

“To travel is to live”. Daniela Grimm’s team has done a lot of living lately. This time, however, we didn’t make it across the Atlantic but were stopped in Zürich…thank god! Other research teams were not so lucky.

After overcoming the airport strike we were all quite excited about going again. We were completely ignorant of the concurrent chaos unraveling at NASA. Because of the strike, we would not fly Copenhagen/Billund – Frankfurt – Orlando, but Copenhagen – Zürich – Chicago – Orlando. Jesper and Daniela now had to come to Copenhagen, whereas Stefan could still catch a later flight from Frankfurt by taking the train from Berlin.

By coincidence, Jesper turned on his phone in Zürich just 30 minutes before boarding the plane to Chicago. Had we boarded that plane, we would have used up all our travel funding.

Jesper got an incoming call from an unknown international number and was at first reluctant to pick up. But he did. On the phone was Markus: “Don’t get on the plane! The launch has been postponed due to a fire”. All hell broke loose. We had to get our bags of the plane, Stefan had to be stopped from boarding the plane in Frankfurt, Anne, who handles the flight bookings, had to be informed so we could get a refund, and we had to find transportation back home. Then came the second round, calling co-workers, familiy and media.

zurich_1

The plane to Chicago…Credit: Jesper Rais

Daniela made a quick decision: “We rent a car and drive home”. This meant a 12 hour long road trip, crossing Germany from south to north and making it back home roughly 24 hours after waking up to an exciting day of NASA fun.

 

And the reason for the postponement? A fire broke out around the launch pad knocking out crucial U.S. Air Force radars. This was also the reason the Atlas V launch was postponed. The rumor has it that now some of the managers from ESA has arrived, since ESA also have equipment aboard the Dragon Capsule, and they are not amused. A lot of pressure is on SpaceX and will the rocket not fly soon then SpaceX might risk loosing their billion dollar contract with NASA. Other private space companies, fully capable of flying to the ISS, are knocking on NASA’s door.

zurich_3

 

More drama: Airport strike

It’s one step forward and two steps back at the moment. Frankfurt airport is on strike tomorrow and as we (Jesper, Daniela, Stefan and me) fly with Lufthansa through Frankfurt we now have to rebook. Hopefully, we will succeed!

UPDATE: Flights have been rebooked. Thank you Swiss International Air Lines.

Help from an armadillo

Jessica was left behind in Cape Canaveral to babysit the cells. Although it’s business as usual in the lab, outside is where the fun is. Yesterday she spotted this curious little fellow – an armadillo.

Armadillo

365px-Atlas_V(401)_launches_with_LRO_and_LCROSS_cropped

The Atlas 5 rocket

Tomorrow it’s big launch day at NASA and Jessica will follow it from the beach. No, not SpaceX’s Falcon rocket but the Atlas 5 rocket. The payload is from the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and highly classified.It was an Atlas 5 rocket that lifted the Curiosity Mars rover out of Earth’s atmosphere in 2011.

 

Kennedy Space Center is a busy spaceport and every month several rockets carrying for example test equipment and satellites are launched into space. Follow the launch schedule here: http://spacecoastlaunches.com/

 

New launch date

The launch date is now set for March 30, 22.50 EDT (4.50 in Denmark)

Daniela, Stefan, Jesper and I will travel back to Kennedy Space Center Thursday 27.

It the weather is against us on Sunday the next launch window is April 2. A mission to the ISS can’t just be psotponed until the skies have cleared. The launch needs to coinside with the correct position of the ISS.

NASA Launch TV schedule – all times in EDT

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

Sunday, March 30 (Launch day): NASA TV live coverage will begin at 9:45 p.m. EDT and conclude at approximately 11 p.m.

If launch occurs March 30, NASA TV will provide live coverage on Wednesday, April 2, of the arrival of the Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station. Grapple and berthing coverage begins at 5:45 a.m. for a grapple at 7 a.m. Berthing coverage begins at 9:30 a.m.

Call
Send SMS
Add to Skype
You’ll need Skype CreditFree via Skype

The power of a sewing machine

Can a sewing machine really sabotage a launch at mighty NASA? Apparently so. Here the reason why the launch were postponed 14 days:

“A sewing machine, used to stitch the cloth shields that are used to protect payloads in Dragon’s trunk, is understood to have been a potential cause of the oil contamination that played a part in a postponement to the CRS-3/SpX-3 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). However, on Friday, SpaceX noted they had cleared the potential of the stains outgassing in a vacuum – which could have been a threat to the optics on two of Dragon’s payloads.”
Source:http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/03/sewing-machine-contamination-spacexs-crs-3-dragon/

 

The hunt for a rocket

So Saturday night and Sunday morning reveal perfect launch weather. What a pity. So instead of our VIP seats we watch the evening sky from the beach. The team was determined not to leave Cape Canaveral without seeing a rocket so therefore we all went to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex…another reason were the free tickets donated to us from Space Florida.

No news from SpaceX, except that apparently they found an oil leak in the capsule and they don’t know from where. An oil sample is currently in the lab for analysis. We are still hoping for March 30 but the launch could be postponed until June.

web_SpaceCenter_06 web_SpaceCenter_04 web_SpaceCenter_03 web_SpaceCenter_02 web_SpaceCenter_01 web_SpaceCenter_05

 

Delay confirmed

What a flop. It is now confirmed that the launch will be postponed until at least March 30. About 40 research teams are now on hold and many with live cells. The foreign teams are keeping one or two team members at Cape Canaveral but the rest – including us – are flying home. Jessica will stay and look after the cells.

The official reason is, that there is nothing wrong with the rocket, SpaceX just need more time. The unofficial rumor on site is that there is a contamination in the Dragon capsule.

The blog will keep going….

 

“This is space Research”

Just as the whole team was excited about being added to the VIP list and getting front seats for the launch a terrible rumor spread. The launch will be postponed for at least two weeks. Instantaneous, the mood in the whole room changed. Do we fly home? Can the cells survive? How do we pay for the prolonged stay? What is the reason? Why can no one from NASA or SpaceX confirm the delay? Another German research team also sponsored by DLR cannot freeze their cells and know have to rethink their whole experiment.

One thing is our logistical headache, another is NASA’s problems with organizing a new launch date with the astronauts up on the ISS. The astronauts cannot change their schedule from one day to another and they need to be ready to receive the Dragon Capsule. The astronauts’ time on the ISS are scheduled right down to the minute and NASA has a whole ground team dedicated to astronaut time planning. Also, there is a satellite launch on March 25 close to the SpaceX launch pad and it needs to be cleared, before the Falcon 9 rocket can be erected again.

“This is space research!” as Jürgen from Airbus Defence and Space pointed out to me.

Cellbox_JR_9216

Crisis meeting – how to tackle the possible delay. Credit: Jesper Rais

Cellbox_JR_9189

Credit: Jesper Rais