[FPSPACE] From the Cosmos 1 Weblog
ljk4 at msn.com
Tue Jun 21 22:15:33 EDT 2005
Jun 21, 2005 | 16:15 PDT | 23:15 UTC
Launch plus 3 hours 29min
There's not going to be any new information for a while.
It is now past 3 am in Moscow, and people are exhausted. Lou has hung up the
phone with us. Over there, they switched from a nominal mode of operation to
one in which they will search for the spacecraft every chance they get, the
next one being at about 02:39:54 UT (19:39:54 here). During that search,
they'll also send a command to the spacecraft to talk. But since no station
has detected the spacecraft since Petropavlovsk, and Strategic Command has
not detected it either, we don't know where the spacecraft is. Again, given
the lack of detection by Strategic Command the two most likely scenarios at
this point are failure to enter orbit at all, or entry into an unexpected
orbit. If we don't know where the spacecraft is, we don't know where the
radio antennas should be pointed and when they should be listening, which
could make it a long search. Hours, days, maybe even a week. We don't know.
In any event, there is not likely to be any new information for a couple of
hours. For those of you who have been following my entries, I thank you, and
thank you also for the messages of support and hope that have been coming
in. I wish I had had more exciting news to share with you. I will certainly
tell you more news once I hear anything. I still hope that we may hear
something good. Whatever I hear, I'll tell you. But I will probably be
silent for a couple of hours.
Jun 21, 2005 | 16:00 PDT | 23:00 UTC
Launch plus 3 hours 14 min
Planetary Society official statement
The Cosmos 1 spacecraft was launched today but we cannot, at this time,
confirm a successful orbit injection. Some launch vehicle and spacecraft
telemetry data gave ambiguous information during the launch. Since the orbit
insertion burn, no signal has been received from the spacecraft. There are
continuing efforts to receive a signal from the spacecraft.
Jun 21, 2005 | 15:52 PDT | 22:52 UTC
Launch plus 3 hours 6 min
So, how do you feel?
Another good question, and a good answer from Lou: that he was not feeling
anything yet, or at least trying not to. We don't know what to feel. Annie
says she feels numb. As for me, I feel very detached. I feel like a pipe
through which information is flowing. What does the pipe feel?
I think it's hard to know what to feel when we just don't know what
happened. If it was a launch vehicle failure, we'd be, well, annoyed,
because we never got to test what we were trying to test. If it was
something on our spacecraft, then we failed doing what we were trying to do.
And in space exploration, that's noble. Space exploration is risky. It's
hard. And actually, let me say here that I feel like we need to take on more
risk than we have been in space exploration. The public doesn't like risk,
and they hate failure. But failures happen. They shouldn't happen for stupid
reasons. But if they happen when you were trying something risky, you learn.
That teaches you something. At least it should. And you try harder next
But it may not have failed!! Don't forget that. We haven't given up hope
In a few hours, there will be major efforts made to communicate with the
spacecraft when it is supposed to pass over Panska Ves.
Jun 21, 2005 | 15:43 PDT | 22:43 UTC
Launch plus 2 hours 57 min
What the Doppler data says
..it doesn't say anything for sure. It does look like there is at least
something in there that indicates that something started nominally. That is,
it looked smooth, and then it looked the velocity was increasing as
expected, and then all of a sudden it goes noisy.
Now, "noise" is actually a real technical term. "Noise" means that the data
looks scruffy and rough. There's no clear pattern to it. Patterns represent
information. Lack of pattern represents lack of information. Now, there
could be a pattern in that data that we just don't understand yet. Once that
pattern comes into focus, it should tell us something about what was going
on with the spacecraft. We'll keep analyzing. Moscow will too.
Also, I hasten to add that what looks like "noise" now isn't necessarily
bad. The rocket was probably firing during that noisy period, and that alone
could have made the data noisy.
Jun 21, 2005 | 15:31 PDT | 22:31 UTC
Launch plus 2 hours 45 min
Too much noise, not enough analysis
That about sums it up.
There was an interesting question just asked at the press conference: What
were we most worried about? Bruce answered that the sail deployment was the
most worrisome moment in this mission, and I actually always felt the same
way. We just were not that worried about the launch vehicle. We were a
little worried about the orbit insertion burn, but not the launch vehicle --
we were pretty confident about that. So if we did have a launch vehicle
"anomaly," (that is, if something went wrong with the launch vehicle), then
we will be surprised and dismayed about that.
Still, though, no analysis. No surety. We just don't know anything for sure.
There's only lots of speculation.
Jun 21, 2005 | 15:13 PDT | 22:13 UTC
Launch plus 2 hours 28 min
So what does this mean?
What this means is that we've still got a couple good news pieces -- data
from the spacecraft -- but we have bad news data -- no tracking from Space
Comm. We just don't know. It's frustrating.
What's making it harder to say anything is the fact that we have some data
that's conflicting. There was some data that was received from the launch
vehicle about 200-250 seconds after the launch. After that, there may have
been something wrong with it, or some ambiguity in it. But what that
ambiguity is, we don't understand -- because the only information on it came
via cell phone from the Navy Severomorsk. No one here or in Moscow has seen
what that data looks like.
Then there's this other data, the Doppler data that we got from Kamchatka.
The data came both before the orbit insertion burn, and during the burn.
That data indicates that the spacecraft was working at least partially
properly at that time -- which is awfully confusing if there was a launch
Actually, if it turns out that there was something wrong, that Kamchatka
data will be immensely valuable. And at least the worst conceiveable outcome
HAS NOT happened -- the spacecraft WAS heard from over Kamchatka. Some data
is way better than no data.
On the other hand, there's that lack of detection by Space Command. At a
minimum, that means that the spacecraft was not where Space Command expected
it to be, which is a big worry. There are two possibilities. Either the
orbit is not the nominal one -- it's not in the right place, but it is in AN
orbit -- or it didn't go into orbit. The third possibility is that Space
Command messed up, but that's less likely than the other two. We have
absolutely no idea which of those possibilities is true.
Jun 21, 2005 | 15:06 PDT | 22:06 UTC
Launch plus 2 hours 20 min
A press conference now, information should be forthcoming.
There is some telemetry data from the launch phase that doesn't appear quite
right. At the same point, there is this apparent indication of an orbit
insertion motor firing at about the right time. But nothing happened after
that, except that the data went noisy, and we don't know.
Jim is reporting now that he's been talking to Strategic Command, which has
been tracking the spacecraft for us. They attempted to track it over both
Shemya and Kwajunlon (sp?) and they have not seen anything at either station
yet. And that's pretty much all we know at this point.
"We've heard nothing and we know nothing," Lou says.
Bruce Murray: "Negative news is not good news. On the other hand we do not
have direct evidence for failure. This is not what we'd hoped to have
Annie Druyan: "I may know now why this mission was so affordable." [That was
a joke, but a dark one, given how little we know at this point.] "The way to
the stars is hard. Ad astra, per aspera -- to the stars, through hard work."
Jun 21, 2005 | 14:47 PDT | 21:47 UTC
Launch plus 2 hours 1 min
No news yet, 2
It's hard to know what to update when there's no information. But I know
there are a lot of people out there who want to know what's going on.
Please, just be patient. We knew that this was a possibility from the start,
though of course we had hoped that we would have those contacts.
Jun 21, 2005 | 14:28 PDT | 21:28 UTC
Launch plus 1 hours 42 min
No news yet
Sorry everybody, I wish I had more info to share with you. We are just
waiting and waiting here. The spacecraft should be near Panska Ves and Bear
Lakes right now. But even those contacts aren't the best. The best
opportunities are on the 5th and 6th orbits, several hours into the mission.
I'll tell you more as soon as I have anything to say.
Jun 21, 2005 | 14:01 PDT | 21:01 UTC
Launch plus 1 hours 17 min
This from Lou in Moscow:
Here's what we know and don't know. Indications are that orbit burn was
received over Kamchatka. That data cuts off. This could be normal, related
to the rocket firing; or it could indicate an anomaly. This is unknown. We
also know that no signal was received at Kamchatka, and we also know that no
signal was recieved at Majuro. From here on in, there's no communication at
all wth the spacecraft until it goes over Panska Ves in the Czech Republic.
A contingency plan for this is now being put into effect. The Panska Ves,
Tarusa, and Bear Lakes stations will send commands to the spacecraft to try
to turn it on. So in sum we have some precious data and a lot of silence. We
have to wait at least 30 minutes before any possible contact, and possibly
longer. It looks like it may be a long night here in Moscow and a long day
Jun 21, 2005 | 13:42 PDT | 20:42 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 56 min
More info from Kamchatka
Lou reports that the Doppler data from Kamchatka indicates that duration of
the motor firing was approximately just at that which was programmed. But no
conclusion yet, because we have no direct telemetry signal from spacecraft.
Jun 21, 2005 | 13:39 PDT | 20:39 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 53 min
More info from Kamchatka
An update from Moscow: they have analyzed the Petropavlovsk data and all
indications are that the spacecraft was running its program as expected, at
least at the beginning of the Kamchatka contact. He reminds us that we did
not necessarily expect to recieve telemetry signal at either Petropavlovsk
Jun 21, 2005 | 13:32 PDT | 20:32 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 46 min
Majuro did not receive signal.
Again, this was not wholly unexpected. We have to wait now for the next
ground station contact, which is Panska Ves at 21:21:00 UT, about an hour
Jun 21, 2005 | 13:21 PDT | 20:21 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 35 min
Still nothing at Majuro
Jun 21, 2005 | 13:18 PDT | 20:18 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 32 min
Little bit of signal at Petropavlovsk
Slava Linkin says Doppler signal was received at beginning, then was lost.
That might be connected with the fact that the motor burn was happening at
Jun 21, 2005 | 13:15 PDT | 20:15 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 31 min
Majuro does not see signal yet
Jun 21, 2005 | 13:11 PDT | 20:11 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 25 min
Report from Kamchatka is that they did not detect the spacecraft
This isn't necessarily unexpected. Petropavlovsk was a marginal contact, and
it would have been happening while the spacecraft was spinning rapidly and
thrusting, not an easy signal to deal with.
We are holding our breaths for the Majuro contact.
Jun 21, 2005 | 13:02 PDT | 20:02 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 16 min
The kick motor should be firing
Again, we still don't know, this is just according to the nominal timeline.
>From Moscow: nothing to report yet, everybody is still waiting. We have
nominally reached orbit injection time, but we've got no confirmation of
In POP all is quiet. We are straining to hear what's being said inside the
room at Lavochkin. There is some discussion going on, but no official
Jun 21, 2005 | 12:56 PDT | 19:56 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 10 min
No celebration yet...
While it was exciting to hear that the launch happened, we at POP didn't
celebrate yet. We are waiting for the first signal to be detected. That's
what will tell us that everything is OK. That won't happen for several
Jun 21, 2005 | 12:54 PDT | 19:54 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 8 min
Stuff we can't see...
There is a lot of stuff going on with the rocket right now that we can't
see. By now, the fairing should have separated, and the spacecraft should be
starting to spin up in order to achieve a precise orbit insertion burn.
Jun 21, 2005 | 12:48 PDT | 19:48 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 2 min
Normal first stage separation! WE'RE OFF!
This information is being relayed from Severomorsk to Lavochkin. No official
launch time yet, we'll get that in a few minutes.
Jun 21, 2005 | 12:46 PDT | 19:46 UTC
Launch plus 0 hours 0 min
"This is Pasadena, we have nominal launch, unverified."
According to our clocks, launch just happened. We won't know if that's true
for several minutes. Brent is continuing to read off the timeline, which you
can read for yourself here.
>From Russia: they say we are awaiting message from Severomorsk.
Severomorsk is the Russian Navy port from which the sub carrying Cosmos 1
Jun 21, 2005 | 12:41 PDT | 19:41 UTC
Launch minus 0 hours 5 min
"T minus 5."
Five minutes to launch. We are now requesting that everyone on the telecon
stay quiet unless exchanging information.
Jun 21, 2005 | 12:33 PDT | 19:33 UTC
Launch minus 0 hours 13 min
We just passed around a jar of peanuts, in a good-luck tradition that dates
back to Apollo.
Jun 21, 2005 | 12:31 PDT | 19:31 UTC
Launch minus 0 hours 15 min
"T minus 15 minutes."
Brent White here in ops is keeping track of the timeline.
Lou says there are 30-40 people in TsUP (the flight control center at
Here we go, hold on to your seats....
Jun 21, 2005 | 12:06 PDT | 19:06 UTC
Launch minus 0 hours 40 min
Our telecom lines are getting set up, and we're ready to go.
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