Category Archives: Space Flight

5 December 2014, 12:05 UTC

The first Orion spacecraft lifts off from LC 37, Kennedy Space Center, Cape canaveral, Florida, aboatd a Delta IV Heavy. (Reuters)
The first Orion spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex 37, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Delta IV Heavy. (Mike Brown/Reuters)

5 December 2014: At 7:05 a.m., EST, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy carried the first Lockheed Martin Corporation Orion spacecraft, EFT-1, into Earth orbit.

This was the first test flight of the new deep space vehicle. There were no astronauts aboard.

Liftoff weight of the Orion/Delta IV Heavy was 1,630,000 pounds (739,356 kilograms).

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is produced by Lockheed Martin Corporation, and consists of a Launch Abort System, Crew Module, Service Module and a Stage Adapter. Gross weight at liftoff is 78,010 pounds (35,385 kilograms). The Crew Module accommodates 4 astronauts. Its gross liftoff weight is 22,900 pounds (10,387 kilograms), and landing weight is 20,500 pounds (9,299 kilograms). The crew area has a volume of 316 cubic feet (8.95 cubic meters).

Artist's conception of an Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle in Low Earth Orbit. (NASA)
Artist’s conception of an Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle in Low Earth Orbit. (NASA)

A series of eight parachutes decelerates the Orion Crew Module on re-entry. Touch-down speed is planned for less than 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour).

On its second orbit, the space craft reached an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles (5,794 kilometers). This allowed the vehicle’s re-entry speed to exceed 20,000 miles per hour (32,187 kilometers per hour), generating heat shield temperatures of over 4,000 °F. (2,204 °C.)

The Orion completed two orbits and landed in the eastern Pacific Ocean, approximately 650 miles (1,046 kilometers) southwest of San Diego, California.

The Delta IV Heavy combines a Delta IV two-stage liquid-fueled rocket with two Common Core Boosters. It is capable of placing a 63,471 pound (28,790 kilograms) payload into Low Earth Orbit.

The Delta IV Common Booster Core is 134.0 feet (40.8 meters) long and 16 feet, 10.0 inches (5.131 meters) in diameter. They are each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A engine, producing 705,250 pounds of thrust (3,137.11 kilonewtons), at Sea Level, each, giving the Delta IV Heavy a total of 2,115,750 pounds of thrust (9,411.32 at liftoff. The RS-68A is 17.1 feet (5.21 meters) long, 8.0 feet (2.44 meters) in diameter, and weighs 14,870 pounds (6,745 kilograms).

The Delta IV Heavy’s second stage is 42.8 feet (13.05 meters) long, and is also 16 feet, 10.0 inches in diameter. It uses an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL-10B-2 engine, producing 24,750 pounds of thrust (110.09 kilonewtons) of thrust. The RL-10B-2 is 13.6 feet (4.15 meters) long, 7.0 feet (2.13 meters) in diameter, and weighs 611 pounds (277 kilograms).

All engines are fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

47–49 seconds after liftoff, depending on launch profile, the first stage (center CBC) engine throttles down to 54.5%, while the boosters remain at full throttle. After 235 seconds of flight, the booster engines throttle down to 54.5%, and 7 seconds later, cut off. The boosters are jettisoned at 245 seconds. 1 second later, the first stage RS-68 throttles up to 108.5%. It cuts of at 328 seconds, and the first and second stage separate at 334 seconds. The second stage engine ignites at 347 seconds, and cuts off at 411–421 seconds.

Orion/Delta IV Heavy liftoff at Launch Complex 37B, 5 December 2014. (United Launch Alliance)
Orion/Delta IV Heavy liftoff at Launch Complex 37B, 7:05 a.m., 5 December 2014. (United Launch Alliance)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 December 1963

RUSHWORTH, Robert H., Major General, USAF5 December 1963: On Flight 97 of the X-15 Program, Major Robert A. Rushworth flew the number one aircraft, Air Force serial number 56-6670, to an altitude of 101,000 feet 30,785 meters) and reached Mach 6.06 (4,018 miles per hour/6,466 kilometers per hour).

The rocketplane was dropped from the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress “mother ship” 52-008, Balls 8, flying at 450 knots (833.4 kilometers per hour) at 45,000 feet (13,716 meters) over Delamar Dry Lake, Nevada. Rushworth ignited the Reaction Motors XLR-99-RM-1 rocket engine, which burned for 81.2 seconds before shutting down.

The flight plan had called for an altitude of 104,000 feet (31,699 meters), a 78 second burn and a maximum speed of Mach 5.70. With the difficulties of flying such a powerful rocketplane, Rushworth’s flight was actually fairly close to plan. During the flight the right inner windshield cracked.

Bob Rushworth landed the X-15 on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a flight of 9 minutes, 34.0 seconds.

Mach 6.06 was the highest Mach number reached for an unmodified X-15.

56-6670 flew 81 of the 199 flights of the X-15 Program. It is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

From 1960 to 1966, Bob Rushworth made 34 flights in the three X-15s, more than any other pilot.

North American Aviation Inc./U.S. Air Force/NASA X-15A 56-6670 hypersonic research rocketplane on display at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
North American Aviation Inc./U.S. Air Force/NASA X-15A 56-6670 hypersonic research rocketplane on display at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 December 1998, 08:35:34 UTC

Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off from LC 39A, 08:35:34 UTC, 4 December 1998. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off from LC 39A, 08:35:34 UTC, 4 December 1998. (NASA)

4 December 1998, 08:35:34 UTC: Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-88) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an 11-day mission to assemble the Unity docking connector module (Node 1) of the International Space Station.

The Mission Commander of STS 88 was Colonel Robert Donald Cabana, United States Marine Corps, on his fourth (and final) space flight. The Pilot was Colonel Frederick Wilford Sturcklow, U.S. Marine Corps, on his first space flight. There were four Mission Specialists: Colonel Jerry Lynn Ross, U.S. Air Force; Major Nancy Jane Currie, U.S. Army, on her third space flight; James Hansen Newman, Ph.D., on his third flight; and Sergei Konstantinovick Krikalev (Серге́й Константинович Крикалёв), a Cosmonaut-Researcher for NPO Energia, on his fourth of six space flights.

Left to right: Sergei K. krikalev (seated), Jerry L. Ross, Rober D. Cabana, Frederick W. Sturckow, James H. Newman and Nancy J. Currie (seated). (NASA)
Crew of STS-88: (left to right) Sergei K. Krikalev (seated), Jerry L. Ross, Robert D. Cabana, Frederick W. Sturckow, James H. Newman and Nancy J. Currie (seated). (NASA)

The first segment of the space station was the Functional Cargo Block, known as Zarya (Заря́), which had been placed in Earth orbit two weeks earlier, 20 November 1998, by a Proton-K three-stage rocket, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Node 1 provided a docking station for arriving space craft. Adaptor points for additional modules were built into the node’s circumference. Endeavour carried Node 1 in its cargo bay. It was maneuvered into position and installed using the shuttle’s robotic arm, operated by Major Currie.

U.S.-built Unity module (right) attached to Russian-built Zarya module, forming the basic components of the International Space Station (ISS), photographed in Earth orbit, 15 December 1998. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration STS088-703-019)
U.S.-built Unity module (right) attached to the Functional Cargo Block (the Russian-built Zarya module), forming the basic components of the International Space Station (ISS), photographed in Earth orbit, 15 December 1998. (NASA)

Endeavour returned to Earth at the Shuttle Landing Facitity, Kennedy Space Center, at 10:53:29 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, 15 December 1998 (03:53, 16 December 1998, UTC). The total duration of Mission STS-88 was 11 days, 19 hours, 18 minutes, 47 seconds.

Endeavour touches down at Shuttle Landing Facility at 10:53:29 p.m. EST (NASA)
Endeavour touches down at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility at 10:53:29 p.m. EST, 15 December 1998. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 December 1965, 19:30:03.702 UTC

Gemini 7 lifts off from Launch Complex 19, 1430 EST, 4 December 1965. (NASA)
Gemini VII/Titan II GLV-7 lifts off from Launch Complex 19, 1430 EST, 4 December 1965. (NASA)

4 December 1965, 19:30:03.702 UTC: At 2:30 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Gemini VII/Titan II GLV-7 lifted of from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida. On board were Major Frank F. Borman II, United States Air Force, the mission command pilot, and Lieutenant Commander James A. Lovell, Jr., United States Navy, pilot. During the climb to Earth orbit, the maximum acceleration reached was 7.3 Gs.

Gemini VII was placed into Earth orbit at an initial maximum altitude (apogee) of 177.1 nautical miles (327.8 kilometers) and a minimum (perigee) of 87.2 nautical miles (161.5 kilometers), at a velocity of 16,654.1 miles per hour (26,802.2 kilometers per hour), relative to Earth.

This mission was a planned 14-day flight which would involve an orbital rendezvous with another manned spacecraft, Gemini VI-A. The actual total duration of the flight was 330 hours, 35 minutes, 1 second.

Artist’s concept of Gemini spacecraft, 3 January 1962. (NASA-S-65-893)

The two-man Gemini spacecraft was built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri, the same company that built the earlier Mercury space capsule. The spacecraft consisted of a series of cone-shaped segments forming a reentry module and an adapter section. It had an overall length of 18 feet, 9.84 inches (5.736 meters) and a maximum diameter of 10 feet, 0.00 inches (3.048 meters) at the base of the equipment section. The reentry module was 11 feet (3.353 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 6.00 inches (2.347 meters). The Gemini re-entry heat shield was a spherical section with a radius of 12 feet, 0.00 inches (3.658 meters). The weight of the Gemini spacecraft varied from ship to ship. Gemini VII had a gross weight of 8,076.10 pounds (3,663.26 kilograms) at launch. It was shipped from St. Louis to Cape Kennedy in early October 1965.

Gemini 7, photographed in Earth orbit from Gemini 6, December 1965. (NASA)
Gemini VII, photographed in Earth orbit from Gemini VI-A, 15–16 December 1965. (NASA)

The Titan II GLV was a “man-rated” variant of the Martin SM-68B intercontinental ballistic missile. It was assembled at Martin Marietta’s Middle River, Maryland, plant so as not to interfere with the production of the ICBM at Denver, Colorado. Twelve GLVs were ordered by the Air Force for the Gemini Program. The GLV-7 first and second stages were shipped from Middle River to Cape Kennedy on 9 October 1965.

The Titan II GLV was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket. The first stage was 70 feet, 2.31 inches (21.395 meters) long with a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters). It was powered by an Aerojet Engineering Corporation LR87-7 engine which combined two combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles with a single turbopump unit. The engine was fueled by Aerozine 50, a hypergolic 51/47/2 blend of hydrazine, unsymetrical-dimethyl hydrazine, and water. Ignition occurred spontaneously as the components were combined in the combustion chambers. The LR87-7 produced approximately 430,000 pounds of thrust (1,912.74 kilonewtons). It was not throttled and could not be shut down and restarted. Post flight analysis indicated that the first stage engine of GLV-7 had produced an average of 462,433 pounds of thrust (2,057.0 kilonewtons). The second stage was 25 feet, 6.375 inches (7.031 meters) long, with the same diameter, and used an Aerojet LR91 engine which produced approximately 100,000 pounds of thrust (444.82 kilonewtons), also burning Aerozine 50. GLV-7’s LR91 produced an average of 102,584 pounds of thrust (456.3 kilonewtons).

The Gemini/Titan II GLV-7 combination had a total height of 107 feet, 7.33 inches (32.795 meters) and weighed 346,228 pounds (157,046 kilograms) at ignition.

Lieutenant Commander James A. Lovell, Jr., U.S. Navy, and Major Frank F. Borman II, U.S. Air Force, with a scale model of a Gemini spacecraft. (NASA)
Lieutenant Commander James A. Lovell, Jr., U.S. Navy, and Major Frank F. Borman II, U.S. Air Force, with a scale model of a Gemini spacecraft. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 December 1973, 02:26:00 UTC

Photographic image of the planet Jupiter, taken by Pioneer 10, 3 December 1973. (NASA)
Photographic image of the planet Jupiter, taken by Pioneer 10, 3 December 1973. (NASA Ames Research Center)

3 December 1973: At 02:26:00 UTC, the NASA interplanetary probe Pioneer 10 reached its closest approach to the gas giant, Jupiter, 132,252 kilometers (82,178 miles) above the planet’s cloud tops. At that time, Pioneer 10 had a velocity of approximately 132,000 kilometers per hour (82,021 miles per hour).

Composite of images of the planet Jupiter during Pioneer 10’s approach (lower images, left to right) and departure (upper images, right to left). NASA

During the encounter with Jupiter, more than 500 photographic images were made and transmitted to Earth. A variety of measurements were made by sensors aboard the space craft.

An artist’s conception of Pioneer 10 at Jupiter. (NASA)

Pioneer 10 was built by the TRW Space & Technology Group, Redondo Beach, California, for the NASA Ames Research Laboratory. It was launched by a three-stage Atlas Centaur rocket from Launch Complex 36A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 2 March 1972.

The last signal received from Pioneer 10 was on 23 January 2003. At that time, the probe was an estimated 12 billion kilometers (80 Astronomical Units) from Earth.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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