In Memory of the Fallen

I am alive today because my natural father lived through his service as a US Army rifleman in World War II. He marched across France, came home with shrapnel in his leg, and made a fairly good life after the war.

Arlington...
(“Arlington,” by Sunday Money, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I am the man I am today because my adoptive father lived through his term of US Army service in the early 1950s. He served in Germany, interviewing scientists associated with Operation Paperclip, often close to if not occasionally inside the Soviet area of occupation.

I am personally very pleased that both of these men made it through their military service alive. I am pleased that one of them is still with us, still vital and active. I can only imagine how difficult it is for the families of those who fought for our freedom but did not return.

I will not, cannot, forget those served and those who are still serving, standing in the gap for all of us.

But on this Memorial Day and every day, I offer my deepest appreciation for those who fell, who gave all they had to give, and who in their falling made it possible for others — including me — to live.

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I Slept Well Last Night (as Orwell said)

I slept well last night (as Orwell said)
Quite peaceably in my comfortable bed
Knowing my guardians, sturdy and rough
Stood ready to do violence on my behalf.

A Veteran's salute
(“A Veteran’s salute,” by The U.S. Army, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

To all those who served, are serving, and will serve, thank you on this Veterans’ Day. It was a privilege to serve with you in my small way, and it is an honor to live under the peace you secure. I salute you.

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The Mystery of Salyut 2

Forty years ago today — April 3, 1973 — the USSR launched Salyut 2 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Proton K rocket.


(Line drawing of an Almaz space station. NASA image from Wikimedia Commons.)

According to the National Space Science Data Center, Salyut 2 “was designed for scientific research and testing of onboard systems and units” and failed “11 days after launch [due to] an unexplainable accident.”

The Wikipedia entry tells a different story: that Salyut 2 was one of the Soviet Union’s Almaz modules — a space station designed for military use, in answer to the USAF’s proposed Manned Orbiting Laboratory — and the first of the Almaz units to reach orbit. The station’s true purpose was hidden in plain sight by its being designated as a Salyut module.

Wikipedia also includes an explanation for the Almaz/Salyut’s failure:

Three days after the launch of Salyut 2, the Proton’s spent third stage exploded. Thirteen days into its mission, Salyut 2 began to depressurise, and its attitude control system malfunctioned. An inquiry into the failure initially determined that a fuel line had burst, burning a hole in the station. It was later discovered that a piece of debris from the third stage had collided with the station, causing the damage.

The source for the additional Salyut 2 information is this Russian Space Web page, which also notes that

Soon after the accident, official Soviet sources announced that the Salyut-2 had completed its operations “after a series of tests.” For years, official Soviet sources continued to claim that “during entire flight (of Salyut-2) reliable radio-contact with the station had been maintained … and all onboard systems and science equipment of the station had functioned normally.”

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Space History: the Nascent Strategic Defense Initiative

Thirty years ago today — March 23, 1983 — President Ronald Reagan announced a research program that would eventually become the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

President Reagan called for a major research-and-development effort on space-based defenses against ballistic missile attacks. Some of the work I did in the Air Force was related to SDI, which became known (usually pejoratively) as “Star Wars.”

Those of us who were geeks of one stripe or another didn’t really mind the nickname.

According to this excerpt from Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War by Frances Fitzgerald,

The announcement, made in an insert into a routine defense speech, came as a surprise to everyone in Washington except for a handful of White House aides. The insert had not been cleared with the Pentagon, and although Reagan was proposing to overturn the doctrine which had ruled U.S. nuclear strategy for more than three decades, the secretary of defense and the secretary of state were informed only a day or so before the speech was broadcast.

I find that fascinating: visionary, and quite bold. I appreciate that.

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Japanese X-Ray Telescope, and a Satellite’s Destruction

Twenty years ago today — February 20, 1993 — Japan launched the Asuka x-ray observatory from Uchinoura Space Center atop an M-3SII rocket.


(Representation of Asuka satellite. JAXA image.)

Asuka, also known as ASTRO-D before launch and ASCA afterward, was a joint mission in which NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology both provided spacecraft components in exchange for observation time with the orbiting telescope. The spacecraft operated normally for over seven years; however,

A solar flare on 14 July 2000 caused heating and expansion of the upper atmosphere, which increased the drag and external torque on ASCA. The attitude was perturbed, so the solar panels lost lock on the Sun, resulting in discharge of the batteries. ASCA reentered the atmosphere on March 2, 2001.

This date in space history is also marked by another satellite’s destruction, but this time it was deliberate: 5 years ago today, the guided-missile-cruiser USS Lake Erie launched a missile to intercept a disabled reconnaissance satellite. You can read contemporary news reports at Spy Satellite’s Downing Shows a New U.S. Weapon Capability and Navy says missile smashed wayward satellite.

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A Space History First, AND a New NASA Communication Relay Satellite

Twenty years ago today — January 13, 1993 — the Space Shuttle Endeavour launched from the Kennedy Space Center carrying a new Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS).


(EVA-1 Crewmember Greg Harbaugh working in the Shuttle’s payload bay. NASA image.)

The STS-54 crew — John H. Casper, Donald R. McMonagle, Gregory J. Harbaugh, Mario Runco, and Susan J. Helms — spent almost six days in space. They deployed the fifth TDRS spacecraft during their first day in orbit; the TDRS’s Inertial Upper Stage maneuvered it into its higher operational orbit.

The crew spent their remaining time in space conducting a variety of experiments: they took spectrographic readings of X-ray sources with the Diffuse X-ray Spectrometer (DXS); studied biological systems under microcravity using the Commercial General Bioprocessing Apparatus (CGPA), the Chromosome and Plant Cell Division in Space Experiment (CHROMEX), and the Physiological and Anatomical Rodent Experiment (PARE); measured flame propagation in microgravity with the Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE); et cetera.

As for the space history “first” — on this mission, then-Major Helms became the first U.S. military woman to fly in space. Still on active duty in the USAF, she is now a Lieutenant General and the Commander of 14th Air Force at Vandenberg AFB.

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First Launch of NRO's 'Poppy' Spacecraft

Fifty years ago today — December 13, 1962 — a Thor Delta rocket out of Vandenberg AFB launched the first set of electronic intelligence (ELINT) spacecraft in the Poppy program.


(Poppy Type II satellite. NRO image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Also known as 1962 Tau Beta (among other names), the Poppy spacecraft were a follow-on to the Galactic Radiation and Background (GRAB) series of ELINT satellites, pictured in this previous blog entry. Several Poppy spacecraft were launched together, in tandem with the Injun 3 instrumentation satellite.

The National Reconnaissance Office declassified the Poppy program in 2005, and prepared a report entitled Raising the Periscope that contains select details about it and the GRAB program.

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Final Classified DoD Shuttle Mission

Twenty years ago today — December 2, 1992 — the Space Shuttle Discovery launched from the Kennedy Space Center carrying … something.


(STS-53 crew. NASA image.)

STS-53 was the last classified Department of Defense mission for the shuttle fleet. Astronauts David M. Walker, Robert D. Cabana, Guion Bluford, Jr., James S. Voss, and Michael R. Clifford deployed the payload and conducted a series of experiments.

The names of the secondary payloads and the experiments on this mission are interesting — particularly the last three:

  • Orbital Debris Radar Calibration Spheres (ODERACS)
  • Shuttle Glow Experiment/Cryogenic Heat Pipe Experiment (GCP)
  • Microcapsules in Space (MIS-l)
  • Space Tissue Loss (STL)
  • Visual Function Tester (VFT-2)
  • Cosmic Radiation Effects and Activation Monitor (CREAM)
  • Radiation Monitoring Equipment (RME-III)
  • Fluid Acquisition and Resupply Experiment (FARE)
  • Hand-held, Earth-oriented, Real-time, Cooperative, User-friendly, Location-targeting and Environmental System (HERCULES)
  • Battlefield Laser Acquisition Sensor Test (BLAST)
  • Cloud Logic to Optimize Use of Defense Systems (CLOUDS)

After a week in space, the shuttle landed at Edwards AFB because of cloud cover at Kennedy.

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Two DoD Comsats in One Launch

Thirty years ago today — October 30, 1982 — two Defense Satellite Communication System spacecraft were launched from Cape Canaveral on a single Titan 34D vehicle.


(DSCS III. USAF image.)

The launch of DSCS II (pronounced “discus two”), flight 15, and DSCS III, flight 1, marked the first use of the Titan 34D with the Inertial Upper Stage.

Several years later, after two failed Titan 34D launches, I would become involved in the Titan 34D Recovery Program; specifically, setting up the facilities for, and monitoring the environmental effects of, the first-ever full-scale nozzle-down test of one of the solid rocket motors, at the AF Rocket Propulsion Laboratory at Edwards AFB.

[BREAK, BREAK]

And 10 years ago today, in 2002, Soyuz TMA-1 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying cosmonauts Sergei V. Zalyotin and Yuri V. Lonchakov, along with Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne, to the International Space Station (ISS). Later in 2002, I ended up at Baikonur for the launch preparations of the Nimiq-2 satellite.

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Mapping the (Artificial) Radiation Belt

Fifty years ago today — October 27, 1962 — Explorer 15 was launched from Cape Canaveral on a Thor Delta rocket, to study a radiation belt produced three months earlier.


(The Starfish nuclear explosion, as seen from nearly 900 miles away in Honolulu, HI.
US Government image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Explorer 15 was instrumented with an array of radiation detectors, as its mission was to study the radiation belt produced by the Starfish nuclear test conducted on July 9, 1962. The Starfish test — conceived by the Atomic Energy Commission and what would become the Defense Nuclear Agency, and launched from Vandenberg AFB by the Air Force — revolutionized the understanding of electromagnetic pulse, but the energetic particles it created contributed to the failures of several low-earth-orbiting satellites.

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