Secret In The Sky

Round and round the Earth it goes, who or what it’s spying on very few people know.

Delta 4 rocket successfully lofts surveillance satellite

A Delta 4 rocket made a thunderous departure from California on Tuesday afternoon, only to slip into a news blackout minutes later while it climbed higher and faster to deploy a classified spy satellite, a success-defining milestone that was confirmed by hobbyist observers.

The United Launch Alliance-made booster roared away from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:12:57 p.m. local (7:12:57 p.m. EDT; 2312:57 GMT) on a southwesterly course to reach a retrograde orbit inclined 123 degrees relative to the equator.

. . .

The hush-hush nature for the rest of flight is all part of launching covert payloads for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, the secretive agency that operates the country’s fleet of spy satellites. The NRO does not disclose the purpose of its spacecraft being sent up on each launch, saying only that the flight was called the NROL-25 mission.

See also:
Rocket Launches Secret Spy Satellite for US Military
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Rocket Successfully Launches Payload for the National Reconnaissance Office
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Rocket Successfully Launches Payload for the National Reconnaissance Office
US launches new spy satellite NROL-25
Delta 4 lifts off
Spy satellite-carrying rocket blasts off
U.S. rocket carrying classified payload launches
ULA Successfully Launches Delta IV Rocket
Rocket carrying classified payload launches from California’s central coast
Rocket launch includes key parts from Utah’s ATK sites
List of NRO Launches
National Reconnaissance OfficeNational Reconnaissance Office

According to the listed launch designation, NROL-25 is a radar imaging satellite operating in a retrograde low Earth orbit.

/if I had to guess what it’s looking at, I’d guess Iran

Russian Poison From The Sky

This time, it’s the Russian’s turn to randomly drop a spacecraft to Earth from orbit, only this one is loaded up with ten tons of highly toxic chemicals. When you duck, don’t forget your umbrella.

Toxic Russian Mars Probe Heads Back to Earth

It’s hard to believe that only last week we were getting excited for Russia’s first interplanetary mission in 15 years to launch. By now, we should be happy in the knowledge that the ambitious — and awesome — mission is powering through space, toward the Martian moon Phobos.

The reality is that we are now discussing uncontrolled reentry scenarios.

As if that wasn’t enough bad news, we are looking at an uncontrolled toxic reentry scenario. Phobos-Grunt — correctly written “Fobos-Grunt,” meaning “Phobos-Soil” or “Phobos-Ground” — is fully-laden with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide; that’s ten tons of fuel and oxidizer. The probe itself weighs-in at only three tons.

The majority of the fuel will likely vaporize during reentry, but everyone will be hoping for a splash-down in an ocean (which covers two-thirds of Earth, fortunately), as the wreckage will still be hazardous. There’s also a small quantity of radioactive cobalt-57 in one of the science missions housed in the probe — a fact that will most likely cause a media frenzy.

It is for these reasons that the Russian media is dubbing Phobos-Grunt “Most toxic falling satellite ever.”

See also:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft Goes AWOL
Russian Mars Probe Will Likely Come Crashing Back to Earth
Toxic Russian Mars Probe Likely Heading Back to Earth
Mood grim over Mars probe faultRussia Running Out Of Time, As Mars Mission Seems Destined To Fail
Report: Russians Believe Martian Moon Probe is ‘Lost’
Source: Russian Space Probe Unlikely to be Saved
Phobos-Grunt Mars probe remains silent in Earth orbit
Now Russians can’t even contact their busted Mars probe
Contact with Russian Mars probe ‘unlikely’ – expert
Failed Russian space mission shows difficulty of exploring Mars
Salvaging Science from Stricken Mars Moon Probe: A Scientist’s View
Phobos-Grunt mission
Fobos-Grunt

Man, the Russians just can’t catch a break. This is their fourth launch failure just this year and now they’re 0 for 18 at Mars missions.

/and we trust the Russians with our U.S. astronauts, it makes me nervous

Partly Cloudy With A Chance Of Falling Satellites

Here we go again, this time it’s the German’s turn to randomly drop [expletive deleted] from orbit.

Falling German Satellite Poses 1-in-2,000 Risk of Striking Someone This Month

A big German satellite near the end of life is expected to plunge back to Earth this month, just weeks after a NASA satellite fell from orbit, and where this latest piece of space junk will hit is a mystery.

The 2.4-ton spacecraft, Germany’s Roentgen Satellite (ROSAT), is expected to fall Oct. 22 or 23.

The satellite will break up into fragments, some of which will disintegrate due to intense re-entry heat. But studies predict that about 1.6 tons of satellite leftovers could reach the Earth’s surface. That’s nearly half ROSAT’s entire mass.

There is a 1-in-2,000 chance that debris from the satellite could hit someone on Earth, though the likelihood of an injury is extremely remote, German space officials say. For German citizens, the risk of being struck is much lower, about 1 in 700,000.

All areas under the orbit of ROSAT, which extends to 53 degrees northern and southern latitude, could be in the strike zone of the satellite’s re-entry.

See also:
Falling ROSAT satellite to make reentry between Oct. 21 – 25
German satellite to plunge back to Earth
Huge German Space Junk Satellite To Fall To Earth Sooner Than Expected
Dead German satellite to fall on earth
Massive German satellite will fall to Earth this week
Duck and cover: ROSAT is the next re-entry
Reminder: ROSAT’s coming down soon
ROSAT expected to fall to Earth sometime this week, scientists say
German satellite set to fall to Earth
Not NASA but German Satellite will fall to Earth this weekend
Last chance to see doomed German satellite in night sky
Falling German Satellite Has a 1-in-2,000 Chance of Hitting Somebody
Track Germany’s Falling, 2.4-Ton Satellite in Real-Time
The ROSAT Mission
ROSAT

You’d think that by now, we’d have the technology to orbit powered drones with robotic arms that could guide these massive dead satellites into a controlled deorbit.

/joking about a 1 in 2000 chance of getting hit by tons of space junk moving at terminal velocity is all fun and games until someone actually gets hurt

Look Out Below!

As they say, what goes up, must come down. Round and round she goes, where she’ll hit, nobody knows.

Huge Defunct Satellite Falling to Earth Faster Than Expected, NASA Says

NASA space junk experts have refined the forecast for the anticipated death plunge of a giant satellite, with the U.S. space agency now predicting the 6 1/2-ton climate probe will plummet to Earth around Sept. 23, a day earlier than previously reported.

The defunct bus-size spacecraft is NASA’s Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite (UARS), which launched in 1991 and was shut down in 2005 after completing its mission. The satellite was expected to fall to Earth sometime this year, with experts initially pegging a weeks-long window between late September and early October, then narrowing it to the last week of this month.

. . .

NASA expects at least 26 large pieces of the massive satellite to survive the scorching temperatures of re-entry and reach Earth’s surface. Titanium pieces and onboard tanks could be among that debris, but the UARS satellite carries no toxic propellant (NASA used up all the fuel in 2005).

The debris is expected to fall over a swath of Earth about 500 miles (804 kilometers) long, NASA officials said.

There is a 1-in-3,200 chance of satellite debris hitting a person on the ground, odds that NASA says are extremely remote. Outside experts agree.

See also:
Dead NASA Satellite Falling From Space, But When & Where?
Space Satellite UARS Adrift and Heading for Earth
Nasa warns of fresh risk from £468m satellite falling from space
NASA Not Sure When, Where Falling Satellite Will Hit Earth
NASA Satellite Falling to Earth: Will You Be Hit?
Nasa satellite UARS nearing Earth ‘could land anywhere’
NASA is Deorbiting a Satellite, but They Don’t Know Exactly Where or When It’s Coming Down
The Sky is Falling As UARS Drops In
Keep Sept. 23 open: A satellite is heading our way
Six-ton NASA satellite to collide with Earth
NASA UARS satellite expected to crash to Earth

A 1 in 3,200 chance of a piece of debris hitting someone on the ground is extremely remote? Um, no, the chances of getting hit by lightening or winning the lottery are remote. 1 in 3,200 is like hey, don’t forget to duck.

/we have much larger satellites on orbit, let’s hope we never lose positive control of any of them, say as the result of a Chinese attack

Lost In Space Again

When it comes to launching satellites, the Russians can’t seem to catch a break.

Russia Loses Contact With Satellite After Rocket Launch

Russia’s Federal Space Agency lost contact with a new communications satellite shortly after it launched into space due to an apparent communication glitch on the spacecraft’s rocket, Russia’s space agency has reported.

The satellite, called Express-AM4, blasted off atop a Proton rocket on Wednesday (Aug. 17) at 5:25 p.m. EDT (2125 GMT) from the central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where it was early Thursday morning local time.

According to a translated statement posted in Russian to the country’s Federal Space Agency website, officials said flight controllers lost contact with the satellite due to an apparent communications problem with the Proton rocket’s Breeze M upper stage. Later, another statement suggested that the rocket stage may have been found though the status of the Express-AM4 satellite was unclear.

. . .

The new rocket malfunction is the latest of several embarrassing Russian launch failures or incidents for Russia’s space program in a single year.

See also:
Missing satellite found off designated orbit
Lost Russian satellite found in wrong orbit
Russia loses newly launched telecom satellite
Russian Inquiry Into Express-AM4’s Anomaly…
Russia loses contact with $265-million Express-AM4 satellite shortly after launch
Satellite loss deals ‘severe blow’ to Russia: experts
Powerful communications satellite feared lost in space
Contact lost with freshly launched satellite in Russia
Missing satellite found off designated orbit
Russia loses contact with satellite after launch: reports
Russian Federal Mission Express-AM4 Anomaly Investigation Underway
Russia loses contact with just-launched £160m satellite in latest setback for its space industry
Russia loses contact with Europe’s biggest communications satellite
Russian satellite missing within hours of takeoff
Russia Loses Contact With Newly-Launched Satellite

Looking on the bright side, at least they don’t currently have this sort of problem with their manned space flights.

/which is a really good thing since, now that the U.S. space shuttle program is grounded, we depend on Russia to ferry out astronauts back and forth from the International Space Station

Splish Splash, Glory Takes A Bath

Apparently, Russia isn’t the only country that can pitch multi-million dollar satellites into the ocean.

NASA’s Glory satellite launch fails

A rocket, standing more than nine stories tall, blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base but failed to lift a NASA Earth-observation satellite into orbit and plummeted into the Pacific Ocean. The failed mission cost $424 million, the space agency said.

It is the second consecutive time that NASA has encountered the problem with the Taurus XL rocket built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.

NASA scientists believe the launch on Friday failed because the satellite’s protective cover, which opens like a clamshell, did not separate as expected.

“Obviously, this is a terrific disappointment and we feel bad for letting NASA … down,” said Barron Beneski, an Orbital Sciences spokesman. “People have dedicated years of their lives into this.”

NASA’s Glory satellite was designed to help scientists understand how the sun and particles of matter in the atmosphere called aerosols affect the Earth’s climate. It was also built by Orbital in Virginia.

See also:
Pesky Nose-Cone Problem Downs NASA’s Glory Satellite
NASA’s Glory Satellite Crashes in Pacific; Agency Blames Nose Cone
NASA science satellite lost in $424 million launch failure
NASA’s ‘Glory’ research satellite plunges into the sea
Glory climate satellite fails: information & reactions$424 million satellite mission deemed a failure
NASA research satellite plunges into the sea
Climate-Tracker Satellite Crashes During Launch
New Satellite Crashes Into Ocean After Launch
NASA’s Glory mission fails to reach orbit (photos)
Kentucky satellite lost in rocket failure
Glory (satellite)
Glory Mission
Glory

Gee, you’d think NASA would have figured out what the problem was after the first time it happened. It’s more than embarrassing, not to mention incredibly expensive, to have the exact same failure occur twice in a row.

/oh well, I suppose it could have been worse, at least it wasn’t a human payload

Russian Rocket Roulette

Less than two months after losing three satellites in the ocean, Russia’s apparently lost yet another one.

Russian satellite feared stranded by rocket mishap

Russia is struggling to contact a military research satellite believed stranded in a low orbit by a rocket failure, according to Russian media reports.

The spacecraft lifted off on a Rockot launch vehicle at 1400 GMT (9 a.m. EST) Tuesday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome about 500 miles north of Moscow.

The two-stage Rockot, a converted ballistic missile, flew north from Plesetsk toward space. A Breeze KM upper stage was supposed to fire twice to propel Russia’s GEO-IK 2 satellite to an orbital altitude of 1,000 kilometers, or more than 600 miles, about 90 minutes after blastoff.

But U.S. military tracking data indicate the rocket is still in an elliptical transfer orbit with a peak altitude of about 650 miles and a low point of 200 miles. Such an orbit might indicate the hydrazine-fueled Breeze KM engine did not ignite for a second time as planned.

Russia’s Novosti news agency quoted Oleg Ostapenko, commander of Russian space troops, as saying the satellite was placed in a bad orbit. Russian controllers are attempting to establish control of the craft, which did not radio back to Earth following launch.

See also:
Russia loses new military satellite
Russians Lose Spy Satellite Hours After Launch
Russian Dual Purpose Geodesic Satellite Lost
Russia loses control of new military satellite
Russia Reportedly Loses Military Satellite
Russia loses contact with newly launched satellite: report
Military Sources: Russia Lost Satellite
Russia loses new satellite in space: Interfax
Anyone Seen a Russian Military Satellite?

And this comes shortly after India lost a satellite last Christmas, when a Russian designed rocket exploded shortly after launch.

/is it just me, or does there seem to be an inordinate number of problems with Russian rocket quality lately?

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