Wednesday, 16 December 2015


I didn't see the televised live launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome yesterday, although I watched the docking of the capsule with the International Space Station at around 8pm UK time - at which point there were also various replays of the day's events.

The starmen then had a photo opportunity and phone calls home.

You could sense they were both exuberant but also shattered, having just done what used to be a two or three day sequence compressed into around six hours, culminating with the manual (instead of automated) docking of their capsule with the space station.

I guess this mission has better UK media coverage because of Tim Peake (pictured above), the British astronaut/cosmonaut on the journey. The sight of a Soyuz rocket at take off is striking if somehow retro - I think the original design is from the 1960s and it still somehow looks like 60's futurism. The American rocket designs are more like utility vehicles whilst the Russian designs are more sports-car.

I've been to NASA at Cape Canaveral/Kennedy and the various UK-based space exhibits. It was striking how some of the components looked so primitive, with mechanical relays and switch controls that look like they were repurposed from old gas cookers. That's not to say that systems like the Soyuz aren't reliable. Soyuz has been launching rockets at the rate of 12 per year every year since 1997.

It's interesting to note that there's another two space launches today, PSLV - TeLEOS 1 at 1230 GMT from Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India carrying five satellites. Then there's Long March 2D - DAMPE from Jiuquan, China which is launching the Dark Matter Particle Explorer, a satellite designed to measure high-energy particles in space.

Then on the 17th December there's another Soyuz, this time from the Guiana Space Center in South America and carrying two satellites for Europe’s Galileo navigation constellation. After that there's a couple of days gap before a SpaceX Falcon 9 carries Orbcomm OG2 on the 20th December at 0125-0425 GMT launched from Cape Canaveral.

Then it's back to Baikonor Cosmodrome for another Soyuz - Progress 62P which lifts off at 0844 GMT carrying the 62nd cargo delivery ship to the International Space Station.

There's another 4 launches after that before the end of December, so I guess it's a busy month. That's before another 14 launches in January and February 2016. So, even if it doesn't always feel like it, we really are in the early space age.

No, not to scale

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