Today’s Tidbits: October 14, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: October 14, 2017

Here are our tidbits for October 14, 2017:  Progress MS-07 gets off this time, but weather scrubs NROL-52 yet again (next attempt is early Sunday morning); and sound barrier breaking anniversaries — with an airplane, and without one.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Progress MS-07 Blasts Off on Second Try

Russia’s Progress MS-07 cargo spacecraft is up, up and away on October 14, 2017. Screengrab from NASA TV.

Russia’s Progress MS-07 cargo spacecraft lifted off from its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on time this morning at 4:46:53 am Eastern Daylight Time (2:46:53 pm local time at the launch site).  It is headed for the International Space Station (ISS).

Two days ago (Thursday), the launch aborted moments before liftoff.  NASA’s Rob Navias, who hosted NASA TV coverage of the launch both Thursday and today, explained this morning that 12 seconds before the originally planned launch, an electrical connector did not retract from the Soyuz 2.1a rocket and computers automatically stopped the launch.  Since the engines never ignited, it was a relatively easy fix and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency was ready to try again in just 48 hours.

Unfortunately, in that time the relative positions of the ISS and the launch site changed and Roscosmos could not test out a new trajectory that would have shortened the travel time to ISS to just 3.5 hours (2 orbits).  Instead, Progress MS-07 will have to take the longest route to the ISS (2 days/34 orbits), with docking now scheduled for 7:09 am EDT on Monday.  A shorter 6-hour/4-orbit trajectory is also used, but celestial mechanics did not permit that route today.

The cargo spacecraft is filled with 2.7 metric tons of food, water, fuel, oxygen, air, equipment and other supplies for the 6-person ISS crew (three Americans, two Russians, one Italian).

Not Such Good News for NROL-52

By contrast, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch of the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-52 spy satellite wasn’t as lucky.  For the fourth time, the launch was scrubbed early this morning.  Three of the scrubs, including this one, were because of bad weather.  The other was a technical problem with a telemetry transmitter on the rocket that required it to be taken back to its assembly facility for repairs.

Today’s attempt was foiled by winds gusting to 35 knots during the countdown, plus chances of  violating the lightning and cumulus cloud rules.

ULA will try again tomorrow (Sunday) morning at 3:28 am ET.  The forecast is 70 percent favorable.  ULA will broadcast it on

Will the fifth time be the charm?  [UPDATE: Yes!  It was the charm.  NROL-52 lifted off on time on Sunday morning, October 15, 2017.]

Today in History — Breaking the Sound Barrier With an Airplane, and Without One

On this date 70 years ago, October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager became the first human being to fly faster than the speed of sound in his Bell X-1 aircraft, named Glamorous Glennis after his wife.  The aircraft is displayed in the National Air and Space Museum for those who want to see it in person. It’s tiny, as you can tell in the embedded video as Yeager climbs into it from its B-29 carrier aircraft — an especially tough task with two broken ribs!  Yeager’s website confirms that story [].

On this date 5 years ago, October 14, 2012, daredevil Felix Baumgartner set another sound barrier-breaking record. He did it without an airplane!  Baumgardner, an experienced parachutist, jumped from a high altitude balloon and made a free-fall from 127,582 feet reaching a top speed of Mach 1.25 and thereby breaking the sound barrier with his body.  He was wearing a protective “spacesuit,” but it was quite an ordeal.  Baumgartner spun around and around in the thin atmosphere before he finally fell into a denser region where he could gain some aerodynamic control.  He said back then that it “was really brutal at times.”

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