Monster Blizzard of 2016 Strikes US East Coast, Tracked by NASA and NOAA Satellites

NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite snapped this image of the approaching blizzard around 2:35 a.m. EST on Jan. 22, 2016 using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument's Day-Night band.   Credit: NOAA/NASA

NEW JERSEY- The monstrous ‘Blizzard of 2016’ predicted by weather forecasters for days has struck a wide swath of the US East Coast from the Gulf coast to the Carolinas to New York and soon into New England, with full fury today, Friday, Jan. 22.

NASA and NOAA satellites are tracking the storm which is already inundating the biggest population centers, affecting some 85 million people up and down the Atlantic Coast, as it moves in a northeasterly direction.

This afternoon, NASA and NOAA released a series of eyepopping satellite images showing the massive extent of the storm, which may drop historic amounts of snow on Washington DC and other cities over the day 24 to 48 hours.

The two agencies released a particularly striking image, shown above, showing the storm swarming over virtually the entire continental US as it was closing in on the East coast cites.

It was taken Friday afternoon by the NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite showing the approaching blizzard around 2:35 a.m. EST on Jan. 22, 2016 using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument’s Day-Night band.

States of Emergency have been declared by Governors of states from Virginia to New England, and the list is growing.

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Watch SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Almost Stick Droneship Landing, then Tip and Explode; Video

SpaceX Falcon 9 First stage approaches center of landing droneship in Pacific Ocean. Credit: SpaceX

[caption id="attachment_126865" align="aligncenter" width="800"]SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage tips over and explodes on Pacific ocean droneship after landing leg fails to lock in place on Jan 17, 2016. Credit: SpaceX SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage tips over and explodes on Pacific ocean droneship after landing leg fails to lock in place on Jan 17, 2016. Credit: SpaceX
See landing video below[/caption]

SpaceX came much closer to sticking the landing of their Falcon 9 rocket on a tiny droneship at sea than initially thought, as evidenced by a dramatic video of the latest attempt to recover the booster by making a soft ocean touchdown on Sunday, Jan. 17, after successfully propelling a US-European ocean surveillance satellite to low Earth orbit.

As seen in a vivid new birds eye video view of the landings final moments released by SpaceX CEO and billionaire founder Elon Musk, the first stage booster indeed descended slowly towards the small barge in the Pacific Ocean right on target for pinpoint soft landing.

The rocket landed just 1.3 meters (4 feet) off center of the bullseye on the oceangoing barge.

Unfortunately it then tipped over due to a malfunctioning landing leg that failed to lock in place, possibly due to ice buildup, hit the droneship deck and quickly exploded into a raging fireball.

Musk published the spectacular landing footage on Instagram – see below – showing the rocket propelled descent, droneship landing, tipover and ultimate fiery destruction of the Falcon 9 first stage after returning from a payload delivery to the edge of space, some 10 minutes earlier.

https://scontent-iad3-1.cdninstagram.com/hphotos-xpt1/t50.2886-16/12560150_1553924228264185_2124769001_n.mp4

“Falcon lands on droneship, but the lockout collet doesn’t latch on one the four legs, causing it to tip over post landing,” Musk wrote in a description.

The 156 foot tall Falcon 9 first stage is equipped with four landing legs and four grid fins to enable the propulsive landing atop the barge once the first stage separates and relights a Merlin 1D engine.

“Root cause may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff.”

Falcon 9 successfully launched the NASA/NOAA/European Jason-3 sea level rise reconnaissance satellite on Sunday morning, Jan. 17 at 10:42:18 a.m. PST (1:42:18 EST) from Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC 4) on Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California, which was the primary goal of the mission.

SpaceX’s own secondary goal was to recover the first stage intact to demonstrate rocket reusability.

This was SpaceX’s third try at a barge landing following two endeavors in 2015.
And SpaceX did just accomplish a historic first ever ground soft landing and intact first stage rocket recovery following the ‘Return-to-Flight’ Falcon 9 launch on Dec. 21, 2015 from Cape Canaveral.

Two prior SpaceX attempts at a precision landing on the autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) barge came very close with pinpoint approaches to the oceangoing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. But the rocket tipped somewhat sideways in the final moments and was destroyed in a hard landing.

Musk’s space vision is to radically slash the costs of launching people and payloads to space by recovering and reflying rockets – built individually at great expense – rather than completely discarding them after a single use.

So after separating from the second stage, the first stage Merlin 1D engine was reignited for propulsive maneuvers guiding the booster back to the football field sized droneship, located nearly two hundred miles off the California coast.

The booster successfully soft landed almost dead center on the ASDS named “ Just Read The Instructions” – which put out to sea the day before launch.

Although SpaceX initially thought the booster made a hard landing, further data review revealed that the rocket in fact made a successful soft landing.

“After further data review, stage landed softly but leg 3 didn’t lockout,” SpaceX noted on Twitter. “Was within 1.3 meters of droneship center.

SpaceX plans many future attempts at rocket recovery at sea and on land and Musk is “very optimistic” on the chances, despite the last second tipover and explosion!

“Well, at least the pieces were bigger this time! Won’t be last RUD [rapid unplanned destruction], but am optimistic about upcoming ship landing,” tweeted Musk.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

https://youtu.be/jshk8ZVIgdI

The post Watch SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Almost Stick Droneship Landing, then Tip and Explode; Video appeared first on Universe Today.

SpaceX Launching NASA Jason-3 Ocean Surveillance Satellite Jan. 17; with Barge Rocket Landing – Watch Live

SpaceX Falcon 9 rolls out to California launch pad in advance of Jason-3 launch for NASA on Jan. 17, 2016.   Credit: SpaceX

The joint NASA-European ocean surveillance satellite named Jason-3 is poised for blastoff from SpaceX’s California launch pad on Sunday, Jan. 17 – followed immediately by another Falcon 9 rocket recovery landing on a barge at sea.

The weather forecast is outstanding! And you can watch all the excitement live!

The primary goal is to deliver Jason-3 to low Earth orbit, where it will gather global measurements of ocean topography, or wave heights. These data provide scientists with essential information about global and regional changes in the Earth’s seas such as tracking sea level rise that threatens the resilience of coastal communities and the health of our environment.

“Jason-3 is gathering environmental intelligence form the world’s oceans.”

To top that off, SpaceX plans to move forward with their ambitious spaceflight agenda on rocket reuse. So the secondary mission goal is attempting a 2nd rocket recovery landing of the firms Falcon 9 booster in barely 4 weeks time – this time on an ocean going barge.

The weather prognosis for launch is currently 100 Percent ‘GO’ – and that’s as good as it gets!

Liftoff of the two stage 224 foot tall SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying Jason-3 to Earth orbit is now less than a day away.

Launch is scheduled for the opening of the 30-second launch window on Sunday morning, Jan. 17 at 10:42:18 a.m. PST (1:42:18 EST) from Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC 4) on Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California.

You can watch the dramatic events unfold via a live NASA TV webcast available at: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

Countdown updates begin at 8 a.m. PST, 11 a.m. EST.

The backup launch window for a second attempt, if needed, is on Monday, January 18 at 10:31:04 a.m. PST. Monday’s weather prognosis drops to only 70 Percent ‘GO’ according to Air Force meteorologists.

The Falcon 9 rocket with Jason-3 bolted atop was rolled out from a processing hangar at Vandenberg AFB to the SLC 4 launch pad on Friday, Jan. 15 after it passed the Launch Readiness Review. It was raised into the vertical position on the launch pad at 11:11 a.m. PST today, Saturday, Jan. 16.

Jason-3 is the fourth mission in a U.S.-European series of satellite missions that measure the wave heights of the world’s ocean surfaces.

“These measurements provide scientists with critical information about circulation patterns in the ocean and about both global and regional changes in sea level and the climate implications of a warming world,” say NASA officials.

Jason-3 was built by Thales Alenia of France. It will measure the topography of the ocean surface for a four-agency international partnership consisting of NOAA, NASA, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), France’s space agency, and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat).

The $180 million mission is expected to operate for at least five years.

SpaceX is now aiming to chalk up two successful rocket launches and landings in a row over the past month – if all goes well with Sunday’s Falcon 9 liftoff.

The Falcon 9 first stage will be guided to a soft landing on the barge named “Just Read The Instructions,” said Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX vice president for mission assurance during a pre-launch media briefing on Jan. 15.

The 156 foot tall Falcon 9 first stage is equipped with four landing legs and four grid fins to enable the propulsive landing atop the barge once the first stage separates and relights a Merlin 1D engine.

Two prior SpaceX attempts at a precision landing on the autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) barge came very close with pinpoint approaches to the oceangoing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. But the rocket tipped over in the final moments and was destroyed.

The mission also marks the final launch of the v1.1 version of the SpaceX Falcon 9, first flown in Sept 2013. That flight was also the last time SpaceX launched a rocket from their California launch pad.

Henceforth, the Falcon 9 will launch in the newly upgraded ‘Full Thrust’ version featuring more powerful first stage Merlin 1D engines. The first ‘Full Thrust’ Falcon 9 was used during the historic rocket recovery launch on Dec. 21, 2015.

Koenigsmann also confirmed that SpaceX plans another three or four Falcon 9 launches from Vandenberg AFB throughout this year.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The post SpaceX Launching NASA Jason-3 Ocean Surveillance Satellite Jan. 17; with Barge Rocket Landing – Watch Live appeared first on Universe Today.

Gorgeous Views of Earth from Space Ring in New Year 2016 From the Space Station and Beyond

#HappyNewYear! NOAA’s GOES East satellite captured this image of our home on the first day of #2016.   Credit: NOAA

Happy New Year 2016 from the International Space Station (ISS) and Beyond!

Behold Earth ! Courtesy of our Human and Robotic emissaries to the High Frontier we can ring in the New Year by reveling in gorgeous new views of our beautiful Home Planet taken from the space station and beyond.

The Americas come to life in the Happy New Year image (above) captured by NOAA’s GOES East satellite “of our home on the first day of #2016.”

And the six person multinational crew of Expedition 46, led by Station Commander Scott Kelly of NASA sends hearty greetings and spectacular imagery to all Earthlings while soaring some 250 miles (400 kilometers) above us all.

“Happy New Year to all the people of Planet Earth,” wished Kelly in a special New Year’s 2016 video message beamed down from the massive orbiting science complex.

Kelly was accompanied in the short video by two of his fellow Expeditions 46 crewmembers with well wishes for into the inhabitants of Earth: Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of the European Space Agency.

https://youtu.be/9SY7ojOx6mo

Video Caption: Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA, Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of the European Space Agency wished the people of Earth a Happy New Year. Credit: NASA/ESA

Kelly is now three quarters of the way through his year-long mission on the ISS. Kelly comprises one half of the first ever ‘1 Year ISS crew’ – along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko.

Indeed New Years Day marked Day 280 for Kelly aboard the ISS and he snapped the photo of Earth below to celebrate the occasion of passing of 2015 into 2016.

“We’d like to say what a privilege it is to serve on board the International Space Station. And how grateful we are for all the teams on the ground that support our flying in space, and the science that’s on board,” Kopra added.

Kopra and Peake just arrived at the station barely two weeks ago following a flawless launch on Dec. 15 in their Russian Soyuz TMA-19M capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Along with six time Russian space flyer Yuri Malenchenko they are begining a six-month mission aboard the complex.

“I’d like to wish everyone down on our beautiful planet Earth a very happy New Year, and a fantastic 2016,” said Tim Peake, the first British astronaut to journey to the ISS.

Here’s stunning view of an Aleutian island volcano blowing off some steam taken today, Jan. 2, by Scott Kelly.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The post Gorgeous Views of Earth from Space Ring in New Year 2016 From the Space Station and Beyond appeared first on Universe Today.

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