All posts by Joe

And then there were two!

On September 18, 2013, Orbital Sciences launched its first delivery run to the International Space Station. The flawless liftoff of the Antares vehicle took place at the Wallops Flight Center in Virginia at 10:58 am Eastern Time. The Cygnus spacecraft reached orbit a few moments later. All systems appear to be functioning normally as the craft heads for docking.

This is a great day for the space industry. We now have two commercial providers of cargo for the ISS. Rather than having a government designed vehicle, we have two private spacecraft capable of doing the work for a lot less money.

SpaceX was the first company to demonstrate the ability to deliver cargo for NASA. They have launched the Falcon9/Dragon Cargo vehicle to the ISS twice now with a third coming in early 2014.

With Orbital Sciences now in the mix, there are a lot more options available to the ISS team. If a cargo flight is delayed for any reason, critical components can shift to the other vehicle for delivery. It’s like having both UPS and FedEx available to send your package. If one company has issues, the other can be called upon to launch.

Orbital’s Cygnus, unlike SpaceX’s Dragon, can only take cargo up. It does not have return capability. Instead, it has a slightly larger cargo capacity. Spaceflight is all about trade offs. Orbital made some for cargo space, SpaceX made some for returnability. Both are valid business models.

Each company has a contract for a specified number of launches. Talks have already started about either extending the contracts or starting new ones for even more deliveries to the ISS. Getting material up and down from space is a major concern. Dragon and Cygnus help to provide these services for a decent fixed price.

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Aye, LADEE!

ladee_8-4-11-268x150Good news as NASA’s new lunar orbiter LADEE (the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) is headed for the moon with all systems go. The 550 pound (248 kg) vehicle was blasted into Earth orbit aboard a Minotaur V rocket from the Wallops Space Center in Virginia. From there it will take a slow 30 day transit to lunar orbit.

LADEE is expected to reach the Moon on October 6 and serve for six months collecting data on the lunar dust that gets tossed up from the surface. With particles of dust developing electrical charges, it could be that the lunar surface is a bit more dangerous than we had previously thought.

In the 1960s and 70s, the Apollo astronauts noticed an phenomenon called lunar “twilight rays.” These appeared to effects of dust being tossed up high into the lunar atmosphere, but as the Moon’s atmosphere is only a few inches think, their seemed to be no good explaination for what they were seeing. LADEE also hopes to answer some questions about the rays.

In addition to the lunar dust mesurments, LADEE is carrying an experimental laser communications system that NASA hopes will make future communications with distant probes easier.

A Quick FIX To A Glitch
Shortly after take off, the LADEE probe developed a glitch with its reaction wheels. These workhorses are designed to keep the vehicle pointed in the right direction. The advantage to using them is that you don’t have to carry a lot of fuel with you. The disadvantage is they have to be carefully controlled. The glitch involved the reaction wheels exceeded their limits and the probe shutting them down. NASA reworked the software on LADEE and everything is back to normal.

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If it was easy, it would not be called rocket science.

Have you ever heard someone say “its not rocket science”? The reason for it is that many people associate rocket science with “difficult”. When you have thousands of parts and lots of procedures that have to work right every time things can and do go wrong. Today we got the word that while testing the rocket’s recovery system, a small glitch occured resulting in the damage of some of the flight hardware. While the test went well, this glitch will require some new hardware and testing by our launch provider.

In other words, we have a flight delay.

We spoke with UP Aerospace via email today and they said the test went well and was a success. However the harness used to lift the rocket caught some of the hardware and broke it. Ouch! These things do happen.

The new launch date is May 20th, 2011. It will take that long to get replacement hardware, integrate it into the rocket and test it before the flight can proceed. It is a bummer of an event, but these things do happen. Personally, it is better to have such things happen here on the ground than when the rocket is returning to Earth – rapidly.

The good news is the payload is loaded, balanced and ready to go. The bad news is that we all have to wait six more weeks before the flight happens.

We will keep you up to date on the flight progress. Stay tuned.

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A Bit Of A Break

Now that the flight canister has safely arrived and been integrated into the rocket, things are kinda quiet around here. The flurry if activity leading up to this point has been amazing. We want to thank each and every person who joined us on this flight to celebrate 50 years of manned spaceflight. We are counting down the hours and minutes to liftoff.

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SpaceDiscs Are Here!

The SpaceDiscs arrive from Sweden

After working hard to make this a reality, our supplier has shipped us the entire batch of SpaceDiscs that celebrate the 50th anniversary of manned flight.

What is a SpaceDisc?

A SpaceDisc is a bimetal disc that is concave on one side and convex on the other. Warm it in by rubbing it between your thumb and fingers and then activate it by pressing down until it clicks. Place it on a hard surface and then wait. As the disc changes shape it ‘pop’ high into the air, hundreds of times its thickness.

Based on the Jumping Disc manufactured by Olov Nylander of Sweden, these discs have been custom made for us to fly into space. once flown, they are sure to become a treasured collectible.

These are limited to 25 available pieces. Please email us if you would be interested in owning a unique, fun and exciting piece of history!

We’ll post a video of the SpaceDiscs in action very soon.

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The Danger in Advertising


The Groupon advertising ‘event’ that occurred during Superbowl XLV and the resulting fallout spotlights an issue that every company marketing products struggles with. We here at Photos To Space have looked at advertising the Photos to Space concept paused while figuring out what the best course of action should be.

Advertising is a creative process with restrictions. You want to be remembered, you want to drive traffic to your product or service and you want to walk that fine line that does not offend people. Let’s take a quick look at each of these.

First it has to have some way of getting the buyer’s attention. There are many models. The non sequitur used by Groupon is a good example. Like them or not the commercials are memorable. Tacky? Yes. Humorous? Depends on your perspective. Insensitive? Most likely. Do you remember them? Absolutely.

The accomplished the first goal but what about the second? You have to keep the advertising relevant to your target market. Many would say that Groupon missed the mark here. They are not the first and won’t be the last. In the end the commericals were memorable, but do you remember what Groupon does? If you aren’t already familiar with the product, the commercials do nothing to help further their cause – that being getting people to their website.

Trying to please everyone is the sure way to end up with a boring, forgotten ad. You need to set a direction and go with it. That being said, your concept should always be cross checked to make certain you are keeping it edgy but not going over the top. Groupon could have put a few more checks in their process to see just how bad the reaction will be.

In the end, good or bad, their advertising ploy worked if you think about it. The controversy that is surrounding Groupon has put them in the news and on the public’s mind. When the noise over this advertising fiasco dies down, will they be ahead of the game? I am betting they are.

While Photos To Space is looking at advertising, it is our sincere hope we never take it too far – and not be boring.

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Remembering Columbia


On February 1, 2003 the world was witness to the second disaster to befall the shuttle program. Once again seven brave souls were lost in the effort to learn more about us a species and this gloriously special place we call Earth.

Once again the world was stunned, once again we felt pain and once again we endured.

Let us remember a few things on this day:
The astronauts were doing something that they loved.
All of them understood the risks they were taking and still chose to go.
Mankind does not grow without risk and in some cases sacrifice.

We must remember them as the people they were, brave, loving, curious and adventurous. They are true heroes.

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Twenty Five Years Ago

Challenger Crew - STS-51Twenty Five years ago today, America suffered it’s second great space tragedy when the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after liftoff. To all who have been touched by this remarkable event – our hearts are with you.

January 28th and I was just getting home from a double shift at my job. I was exhausted, hungry and ready for bed. Heading for the kitchen I scarfed down a quick bite and retired to the couch, looking to get a bit of rest. No sooner had I fallen asleep when my good friend John called excitedly and said, “Joe, the shuttle just exploded.” I scoffed at him, hung up the phone and went back to sleep. He called back and very calmly told me this, “Get up, turn on the TV. It doesn’t matter what channel.” He hung up.

Turning on the TV and watching the events unfold in real time was heartbreaking. The families in grief as they and the world saw their loved ones perish. The students all suddenly in shock as they watched helplessly as Christa McAuliffe, their “Teacher In Space” died before their eyes.

America was stunned.

It would take the grounding of the shuttle fleet and along investigation before all the questions would be answered. A flaw in the design and a failure of management led to the loss of Challenger with all hands. When the dust had settled, we as a nation picked ourselves up and went back to the business of getting to space.

Today we as a nation continue to strive to learn more about that magnificent desolation. Today brave men and women still push the boundaries of the final frontier. We watch in awe and dream of the day the we can go with them. Government and private enterprise, working together, are making this this a reality for us all.

This is what we must do. We owe it to our “Teacher”.

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Remembering Apollo 1

On this date in 1967, America suffered through tragedy when an Apollo test capsule with astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee caught fire. With a near 100% oxygen environment, the blaze spread quickly killing all three astronauts. Today we remember their sacrifice and offer our continued condolences to their families.

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Photobucket Partnership Goes Live

We are proud to announce a new partnership with Photobucket, the premier inline photo sharing site. Bill, one of our marketing specialists, worked hard with the Photobucket staff to make this become a reality. Now it is even easier to send your Photo To Space!

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