Category Archives: Space

USA 224

NPR: Amateurs Identify U.S. Spy Satellite Behind President Trump’s Tweet.

“Amateur satellite trackers say they believe an image tweeted by President Trump on Friday came from one of America’s most advanced spy satellites.

The image almost certainly came from a satellite known as USA 224, according to Marco Langbroek, a satellite-tracker based in the Netherlands. The satellite was launched by the National Reconnaissance Office in 2011. Almost everything about it remains highly classified, but Langbroek says that based on its size and orbit, most observers believe USA 224 is one of America’s multibillion-dollar KH-11 reconnaissance satellites.
[…]
Melissa Hanham, a satellite imagery expert and deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network in Vienna, Austria […] says she is amazed a satellite can provide such clear imagery. Spy satellites must peer down through Earth’s atmosphere, which is a bit like trying to look at objects in the bottom of a swimming pool. They also must snap their pictures while whizzing across the sky. Both effects can blur the fine details in images.

“I’m now scratching my head and curious about how they account for the effects of the atmosphere and motion of the objects,” she says.

And she says she thinks she’s not alone. Others will be trying to use the image to learn more about how USA 224 works. “I imagine adversaries are going to take a look at this image and reverse-engineer it to figure out how the sensor itself works and what kind of post-production techniques they’re using,” she says.

Hanham questions whether Trump’s tweet zinging the Iranians was worth the information this image provides to other nations, but she adds: “It’s his decision as the president.””

Dr. h. c. AstroAlex

KIT: Ein Blick ins All: Alexander Gerst begeistert am KIT. (YouTube, 1:53h)

“Wie sieht ein Gewitter über den Wolken aus, wie verändert sich der Körper in der Schwerelosigkeit und was kann Forschung an Bord der ISS zur Behandlung irdischer Krankheiten beitragen? Antworten auf Fragen wie diese fand ESA-Astronaut Alexander Gerst bei den beiden Missionen, die ihn 2014 und 2018 auf die Internationale Raumstation ISS führten. Seine wissenschaftlichen Wurzeln liegen auch in Karlsruhe: 2003 erhielt er sein Diplom in Geophysik an der Universität Karlsruhe, dem heutigen Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT). Die KIT-Fakultäten für Physik und für Bauingenieur-, Geo- und Umweltwissenschaften verliehen ihm nun die Ehrendoktorwürde. Die feierliche Übergabe der Urkunde und ein Vortrag im vollbesetzten Audimax führten den deutschen ESA-Astronauten am 12. Juli 2019 wieder an seine frühere Universität.”

“[Being an astronaut is] a very special mantle to wear. I feel very privileged.”

NPR: Seeing Apollo Through The Eyes Of Astronauts. “Fifty years ago, two astronauts became the first humans to set foot on the moon. Like many explorers, they documented their accomplishment in photographs. The images they took are some of the most enduring of the 20th century, traveling from Life magazine to MTV to Twitter.

For most of us, the photos brought back by Apollo 11 are iconic and a little difficult to comprehend. But for astronauts, they represent something more: hours of training, risks taken and the many people on the ground who worked to make the journey possible.

NPR spoke to five former NASA astronauts who flew on space missions to learn how they see these photos.”

“It’s the tiny, gumdrop-shaped vehicle sitting just below the tip” of the rocket

NPR: The Making Of Apollo’s Command Module: 2 Engineers Recall Tragedy And Triumph.

“Look at a picture of the Apollo 11 launch and you’ll probably notice the rocket’s pointed tip and the fire coming from the five giant engines in the first stage of the 36-story-tall Saturn V rocket.

What you might miss is arguably the most important part of the entire thing: the command module.

It’s the tiny, gumdrop-shaped vehicle sitting just below the tip. It holds the astronauts, their clothing, sleeping bags, food and — along with a companion service module — all of the systems needed for a round-trip journey to the moon. It’s also the only piece of the spacecraft to complete the entire trip and splash down back on Earth.
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On their way back, the astronauts sent one final transmission from space.

Collins had this to say: “This operation is somewhat like the periscope of a submarine. All you see is the three of us, but beneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others. And to all of them, I’d like to say thank you very much.””