Today’s Tidbits: September 10, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: September 10, 2019

Here are’s tidbits for September 10, 2019: Japan’s HTV-8 launch scrubbed due to fire on launch pad; ISRO updates Moon lander status; NASA’s Langley Research Center gets new Director.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Japan’s HTV-8 Launch Scrubbed Due to Fire on Launch Pad

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) scrubbed the launch of the HTV-8 cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) after a fire erupted on the launch pad.  The launch was scheduled for 5:33 pm EDT today (Wednesday, September 11, 6:33 am Japan Standard Time), the 10th anniversary of the launch of the first HTV.

MHI’s H-IIB rocket on the launch pad at Tanegashima, Japan in preparation for launch of JAXA’s HTV-8 cargo mission to the ISS. Credit: MHI

The fire started about 3.5 hours before launch at 3:05 am JST  and took just over 2 hours to extinguish.  MHI needs to investigate what went wrong and whether the rocket was damaged before setting a new launch date.  Launch opportunities exist through the end of October.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) sends cargo to ISS on HTV spacecraft named Kounotori (White Stork) as one of the five space agency partners in the ISS program (NASA, Roscosmos, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency are the others).  JAXA also provided the Kibo laboratory module. The HTVs are launched on MHI’s H-IIB rockets.

Aviation Week & Space Technology reporter Irene Klotz was on hand at the Tanegashima launch site and live tweeted events as they unfolded, including a press conference afterwards.  MHI Launch Director Atsutoshi Tamura and JAXA’s Takeshi Tsujimoto explained the launch will be rescheduled for no earlier than 2-3 days from now and the cargo onboard the spacecraft is fine for about a month.  If the delay is longer than that, it may have to be repacked.

NASA said the delay will not have any impact on the crew, although the 12-ton HTV-8 is delivering six new lithium-ion batteries that require a series of spacewalks by ISS astronauts to install. So that means rescheduling those amidst all the other busy comings and goings of crews and cargo spacecraft that are needed to support life aboard the ISS.

ISRO Updates Moon Lander Status

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) finally officially confirmed that it has located its Vikram lunar lander on the surface.  Contact with the lander was lost on September 6 EDT (early September 7 in India) just before it was to make a soft landing near the Moon’s South Pole.  ISRO Chairman K Sivan told reporters a day later that an instrument on the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter collected a “thermal image” of the lander, but the agency itself did not put out a statement until today.

ISRO continues to try to establish communications with the lander, which is also carrying a small rover, Pragyan.  The orbiter/lander/rover combination was launched on July 22 EDT.

There was an unconfirmed report that ISRO had an image showing the lander is intact, but some experts question whether that can be true.  Andrew Jones of explains that the cameras aboard Chandrayaan-2 probably do not have the resolution necessary to provide that level of detail.  He tweeted images of China’s Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) noting that even if Chandrayaan-2’s cameras have better resolution it still will be difficult to assess Vikram’s status.

Chandrayaan-2’s Orbiter High Resolution Camera (OHRC) has a resolution of 0.32 meters (compared to LRO’s 0.5 meters), but the Vikram lander is rather small, just 2.54 meters by 2 meters by 1.2 meters and weighs 1.5 kilograms (8.3 by 6.5 by 4 feet, weighing 3.3 pounds).  The Chang’e-4 lander is 4.4 meters (14.5 feet) in diameter and weighs 1200 kilograms (2646 pounds) without the Yutu-2 rover.  Yutu-2 is 1 by 1 by 1.5 meters (3.2 by 3.2 by 5 feet) and weighs 140 kilograms (309 pounds).

NASA’s Langley Research Center Gets New Director

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has chosen a new Director of the Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, Clayton Turner, to succeed David Bowles, who is retiring.

Turner joined NASA in 1990 after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology.  His first job at NASA was design engineer for the Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment project.  He moved on to engineering positions on projects in Earth science (Earth Science Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation Project), human spaceflight (shuttle return-to-flight, Ares 1-X, Orion Launch Abort System) and planetary exploration (entry-descent-and-landing for the Mars rover Curiosity).  He later was Director of Langley’s Engineering Directorate and Center Associate Director before becoming Center Deputy Director in 2015.

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