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Narwhal's Triumphant Return [Spaceflight & Exploration] Thread

BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left UnfinishedRegistered User regular
Hello and welcome D&D denizens, forumers from elsewhere, one and all!

I've been told to make this thread for ages (half because people are interested and half because I would often clog up the [chat] thread on launch days), so here it is: a dedicated thread to all things space, spaceflight, space exploration, and also earth-bound exploration as well! I understand that that might be a broad spread of topics for a D&D thread, but I'm confident that the discourse can stay within the confines of those parameters, and that opening things up to that extent will allow for sufficient discussion and thread content!

So without further ado, let's begin:

A little about me: Self-confessed SpaceX fanboy, I nonetheless do try to provide a fair shake (if not always an equal amount of coverage) to other space programs - competition breeds innovation, after all - and there's so much already happening and even more coming in the near future to get excited about in space exploration that I'd be doing myself a disservice if I only focused on the exploits of one company out of Hawthorne, California.

Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of discussing things that might be, but haven't gone beyond the drawing table yet. That being said, I welcome this thread as an opportunity for those who DO enjoy discussing those more futuristic, ambitious projects that may only be a key breakthrough away, etc. I really want this thread to be a free-for-all particularly for spaceflight and space exploration. Even a bit of astronomy is encouraged!

I'm also a fan (to a less "fanatic" degree) of earth-bound exploration efforts, particularly when it comes to the largely unexplored portions of our deep oceans. I'm less "to the minute" on the coverage of this sort of thing (in contrast to how I often cover space launches, as [chat] can attest), so feel free to contribute heavily in this regard if you've got breaking news! :)

Primarily, that's what I want this thread to be about: Breaking news, updates on active missions / spacecraft and / or vehicles in development, and a dash of wild future speculation.

I think that's cool, right? That should work?

Anyway, to start us off, I'm going to hit y'all with a list of nations that have now achieved orbital capabilities, in order of their first reaching orbit:

- Russia, October 1957
- United States of America, February 1958
- France (now part of the European Space Agency), November 1965
- Japan, February 1970
- China, April 1970
- United Kingdom (now part of the European Space Agency), October 1971
- The European Space Agency (there they are!), December 1979
- India, July 1980
- Israel, September 1988
- Iran, February 2009
- North Korea, December 2012
- New Zealand, January 2018

(I left out the achievements of nations like Ukraine (who collaborated heavily with the Russians for their orbital launches [though that may well disqualify NK too, technically] and didn't bother differentiating between the Soviet Union and Russia largely for the sake of simplicity.)

Neat space exploration missions currently ongoing:

- Akatsuki, a Japanese spacecraft currently orbiting Venus, studying the weather patterns and climate of our so-called "sister planet"
- Curiosity, an American rover the size of an SUV, continues to hammer away (sometimes literally) at the Martian surface
- The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, mapping Mars and generally keeping an eye on how things are going down on the surface (and occasionally discovering water!)
- Osiris-REX, en route to the asteroid Bennu to land, grab a sample, and return it to Earth, a feat first accomplished by the Japanese "Hayabusa" spacecraft
- China's Hard X-Ray Modulation Telescope joins the old workhorse Hubble in Low Earth Orbit to do its space observation thing free of most of Earth's light pollution
- Juno, which began orbiting and studying Jupiter not long before Cassini (RIP) took an intentional nosedive into the "other" gas giant, Saturn
- Voyager 1 and 2, both still totally operational, which is bananas. They fired Voyager 1's thrusters in early December, mostly to prove that they could
- Dawn, the asteroid belt explorer, currently in orbit around Ceres

Upcoming space exploration missions in 2018:

- Chandrayaan 2, an Indian mission to the moon that combines an orbiter, lander, and a rover. If successful, it will be India's first successful soft landing on the Moon's surface.
- Mars InSight, a NASA-built Mars lander, is the only mission heading to Mars in the upcoming launch window. Primary mission is studying seismic activity and a general understanding of how the Martian surface was formed.
- Aeolus, an ESA Earth-observing satellite, designed to collect real time wind profile data, which would be a huge boon to the meteorological community ('Sup, @Chimera !)
- The Parker Solar Probe hopes to get closer to the Sun than any mission before, and thereby make it the fastest spacecraft on record (using the Sun as reference), beating out NASA stalwarts Helios 1 and Helios 2.
- China has a number of lunar missions planned, and it's possible that two of them - an orbiter and and lander / rover - could both launch in 2018.

Anyway, I think that's enough to get us started - my first post will be probably be about exactly what you expect it to be about, and you should expect that within the hour! :D

Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Ancillary post to the OP!

    A short list of some of the major launches to look forward to this year:

    - Today, February 6th, Falcon Heavy has its maiden flight / test launch scheduled for 10:30am Pacific, 1:30pm Eastern, 1830 UTC.
    - February 17th, Falcon 9 launches out of Vandenberg AFB to launch "Paz" into a sun-synchronous orbit for the Spanish government
    - February 22nd, another Falcon 9 launches another satellite for the Spanish government, this time a communications satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit
    - March 1st, an Atlas V 541 launches a meteorology satellite into geosynchronous orbit
    - March 9th, a Soyuz launches 3 astronauts, Russian Oleg Artemyev and Americans Andrew Feustel and Richard Arnold, to the International Space Station
    - March 16th, Ariane 5 launches two satellites into geosynchronous orbits, both communications satellites, one out of Japan, one out of the United Kingdom
    - March 18th, a Falcon 9 will launch 10 more satellites into polar orbits for Iridium as part of their continued contract to replace their aging communications constellation
    - March 20th, a Falcon 9 will launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite into High Earth Orbit for NASA
    - April 2nd, a Falcon 9 will launch CRS-14, a resupply mission to the ISS for NASA
    - April 12th, an Atlas V 551 will launch two satellites into so-far "classified" orbits for the United States Air Force
    - April 14th, a Falcon 9 will continue to deliver Iridium satellites into polar orbits as they continue to replenish their constellation
    - In May, Electron hopes to launch a lunar lander for Moon Express as part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition
    - May 5th, an Atlas 401 launches InSight on its way to Mars to study geological and seismological features on the surface of the Red Planet

    And that's as many fixed dates as I'm willing to rely on so far, I'll do more posts as the year progresses and we get a better idea of when interesting / important payloads ought to be launching! :)

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Launch Day Coverage

    And of course, I created this thread rather intentionally on an auspicious day in spaceflight history.

    Scheduled for 10:30am Pacific, 1:30pm Eastern, 1830 UTC, SpaceX will be performing their first test launch of their heavy-lift launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy.

    Here's a little animation they released to show you what we can expect today:





    You may have noticed the payload: it's a cherry-red Tesla Roadster (Elon's personal vehicle, apparently), and that animation is technically wildly misleading. While the boosters will separate at the same time, they will actually stagger themselves by about 9 seconds in terms of their initial boostback burns, etc. so as to limit the possibility of them interfering with one another as they head toward Landing Zone 1 back on the Florida Coast. Additionally, it's highly unlikely that the Roadster will come anywhere near either Earth or Mars anytime soon - it's target orbit can most accurately be described as a heliocentric (around the sun) orbit with a perihelion (low point) of 1 AU and an aphelion of 1.5 AU. This means that it will cross the orbits of both Earth and Mars, but the chance of it coming anywhere near either planet in the next 1000 years is rather unlikely.

    This image, with members of the media gathered near the base of the rocket, may give some sense of scale to this truly monstrous machine:


    WzmzgrO.jpg?1


    One of the most recent images of Falcon Heavy waiting on the launchpad:


    DVUMltoU8AAml8q.jpg:med


    Finally, some pertinent links for later today:

    First, the Press Kit for the launch which gives a pretty decent breakdown of the expected timeline, the performance of the vehicle, etc.

    And the livestream link, for your convenience:





    And finally, the Reddit launch thread that keeps us up to the minute on any news prior to the launch, information about the weather, and how the countdown is progressing (so far, nominally!)

    So that's it, folks! I'll be here about an hour before launch to get the hype party started, to answer questions to the best of my ability, and to guide you through the viewing experience of the 3rd most powerful launch vehicle ever to reach the launchpad!

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
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  • MayabirdMayabird Pecking at the keyboardRegistered User regular
    Opportunity (the smaller, older, solar-powered rover) is still rolling around Mars too.

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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Mayabird wrote: »
    Opportunity (the smaller, older, solar-powered rover) is still rolling around Mars too.

    A very good point, lest we forget The Little Rover That Could! If I remember correctly, still the record-holder for the longest distance traveled on the Red Planet (well over a marathon of distance at this point!)

    Also something I wanted to point out: While most orbital launches are to the East, so as to take advantage of the Earth's rotation, Israel typically launches its spacecraft / satellites retrograde, to the West, largely to avoid political turmoil. A rocket launched over the Middle East is fraught with political complication, whereas few can complain about a rocket launched out over the Mediterranean! A little extra delta-v is a small price to pay to avoid upsetting your supremely powerful neighbors who aren't necessarily fond of you >_>

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • SixSix Fat Apollo Registered User regular
    I didn’t know that about Israel! How much of a Delta-v penalty are they paying by launching west, asks the man too lazy to google it himself?

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  • AthenorAthenor Who needs lions when you have a battlecruiser? Registered User regular
    Man, I hope they don't scrub today. Everyone seems to be paying attention.

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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    edited February 6
    Six wrote: »
    I didn’t know that about Israel! How much of a Delta-v penalty are they paying by launching west, asks the man too lazy to google it himself?

    Depending on where you are, the "assist" you get from launching east saves you between 600 m/s (Cape Canaveral latitude) - ~1000m/s near the equator! They're probably closer to the Cape's latitude, so it's an extra 1200m/s they need to get their stuff into orbit.

    As often as they're able, they try to hitch a ride on an American rocket out of Florida instead, for obvious reasons :)

    BeNarwhal on
    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Athenor wrote: »
    Man, I hope they don't scrub today. Everyone seems to be paying attention.

    Weather looks good, the main complications will likely be the many sensors they have inside what is essentially 3 Falcon 9s. Fortunately, this launch is going nowhere in particular, so the next launch window is exactly 24 hours after this one, and so on until it gets off the pad! (Or possibly horrifically explodes on the pad, though the static fire at least proved that that's unlikely! :P )

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Anyway, I'm away for a few hours, probably be back around ~11am Eastern :) The countdown continues so far down at the Cape! (It's technically launching out of the Kennedy Space Center and not Cape Canaveral AFB, but whatever)

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • ChimeraChimera Monster girl with a snek tail and five eyes Bad puns, that's how eye roll. Registered User regular
    I'm pretty excited about this launch today. I wish I had have gotten a better lead time on the date as I would like to have tired to fly out to see it but I know that both it is hard to set a date for a rockets first flight well in advance and even if they had those dates often get pushed due to weather and mechanical issues.

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  • AthenorAthenor Who needs lions when you have a battlecruiser? Registered User regular
    I just booked a conference room and invited my entire unit to see if people would be interested in watching live. :)

    I need to go check if the Oceanos Explorer is out doing dives right now. I don't think so, but I think it definitely falls under the exploration header.

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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Athenor wrote: »
    I just booked a conference room and invited my entire unit to see if people would be interested in watching live. :)

    I need to go check if the Oceanos Explorer is out doing dives right now. I don't think so, but I think it definitely falls under the exploration header.

    That absolutely falls under the exploration heading, and that's the sort of thing I'm way less informed on, so it's very welcome contribution! :D

    T-3h15m !

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • AthenorAthenor Who needs lions when you have a battlecruiser? Registered User regular
    Ahh, yeah, the Okeanos is currently in dock for repairs.

    http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/welcome.html

    Looks like starting in March they are going to be doing dives in the Gulf of Mexico!

    http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/explorations/2018-overview/welcome.html

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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Athenor wrote: »
    Ahh, yeah, the Okeanos is currently in dock for repairs.

    http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/welcome.html

    Looks like starting in March they are going to be doing dives in the Gulf of Mexico!

    http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/explorations/2018-overview/welcome.html

    That's very cool, it sounds like they're doing a lot of detailed underwater mapping, and at a fairly steady pace too!

    Very valuable data to be collecting. <3

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • NinjeffNinjeff Registered User regular
    edited February 6
    This is all stuff I'm definitely jazzed on, but to be honest i never get a chance to really "follow" it.
    Any good links on comprehensive info on the Space X stuff? I know the very basics, but any good article to read on the new rocket platform and what it will be used for?

    edit:: Whoops! Missed the link to the press kit on my first read through the op. I'll take any other cool links you have too though. ;)

    Ninjeff on
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Ninjeff wrote: »
    This is all stuff I'm definitely jazzed on, but to be honest i never get a chance to really "follow" it.
    Any good links on comprehensive info on the Space X stuff? I know the very basics, but any good article to read on the new rocket platform and what it will be used for?

    edit:: Whoops! Missed the link to the press kit on my first read through the op. I'll take any other cool links you have too though. ;)

    Hehe, yeah, the press kit has some basic info, but this article from the BBC is actually surprisingly informative about some of the details of the vehicle, and some use cases for the Falcon Heavy.

    Admittedly, the Falcon Heavy has a narrow use case now, because both it and the Falcon 9 are hindered by a second stage that's a bit underpowered and underdeveloped compared to the rest of the vehicle. And the Falcon 9 has seen so much improvement in its payload capability that it has certainly stolen some launches from the Falcon Heavy. Nevertheless, it has a role for larger military satellites, lunar exploration, and will probably play a role in the 2020 Mars launch window as well.

    I don't see it launching more than 5 or 6 times a year, whereas I expect the Falcon 9 to get to a twice-a-month pace here soon! :)

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    T-~2 hours, and all systems are still GO for today's launch of the Falcon Heavy!


    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
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  • DoodmannDoodmann Registered User regular
    It still looks like something I would build in KSP which is not a compliment, I am terrible at KSP.

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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Doodmann wrote: »
    It still looks like something I would build in KSP which is not a compliment, I am terrible at KSP.

    It's a very KSP design, it's true.

    But hey, it's a proven design by a couple different rockets already - aside from the landing parts, but we'll see how that all goes!

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
    ElvenshaecB557
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    A "simple" graphic of the flight profile for the Falcon Heavy - including fairing recovery!

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Half-hour delay (so 11am Pacific, 2pm Eastern, 1900 UTC) in an effort to wait for calmer upper-level winds.

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Slipped another 20 minutes (11:20am Pacific, 2:20pm Eastern, 1920 UTC), same issue. Just being picky about the winds up around where Max Q will occur, and I can understand that.

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • AthenorAthenor Who needs lions when you have a battlecruiser? Registered User regular
    BeNarwhal wrote: »
    Slipped another 20 minutes (11:20am Pacific, 2:20pm Eastern, 1920 UTC), same issue. Just being picky about the winds up around where Max Q will occur, and I can understand that.

    Damnit I just sent out my update email pushing back my conference room grab by 30 minutes! Earth, start cooperating!

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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Athenor wrote: »
    BeNarwhal wrote: »
    Slipped another 20 minutes (11:20am Pacific, 2:20pm Eastern, 1920 UTC), same issue. Just being picky about the winds up around where Max Q will occur, and I can understand that.

    Damnit I just sent out my update email pushing back my conference room grab by 30 minutes! Earth, start cooperating!

    Scuttlebutt is that the upper-level disturbance will clear the area by 2pm Eastern, so hopefully the launch does hold at 2:20pm! I'll keep you up to date!

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • RiusRius Registered User regular
    That preview animation cracks me the fuck up when the Tesla soars majestically off into space. Can't wait to watch this today.

    It still blows my mind that the boosters pull a 180 and return to Earth.

    BeNarwhalElvenshaeTicaldfjam
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Another half-hour, 11:50am Pacific, 2:50pm Eastern, 1950 UTC. Nothing's easy in rocket science!

    Window is open until 4:30pm Eastern, though, so still plenty of time to get off the ground today.

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    The pacing of these delays is such that the Reddit thread is currently featuring a countUP instead of a countdown :P

    Fingers crossed that that's the last of the delays, though! People who are smarter about weather than I say even the upper level winds should be basically dead calm at the new targeted launch time.

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
    Athenor
  • SniperGuySniperGuy Also known as Dohaeris Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Is this the one that has Elon's car in it?

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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    SniperGuy wrote: »
    Is this the one that has Elon's car in it?

    Yessir :) Going to a heliocentric elliptical orbit of roughly ~1AU x ~1.5AU, to float around in space until the sun expands and devours it one day

    Or it gets hit by an errant asteroid

    Or the 1 in a million chance that it actually collides with Earth or Mars >_>

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Bah, add another 15 minutes :sad: 12:05pm Pacific, 3:05pm Eastern, 2005 UTC.

    Weather balloons still aren't liking those winds!

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Not to be pessimistic, just realistic, it looks like another strong wind system may have caught up to the first one that has been causing problems, no change in launch time yet, but prepare yourselves for the possibility of a scrub until tomorrow.

    Again, no change yet, launch time still scheduled as 12:05pm Pacific, 3:05pm Eastern, 2005 UTC. But don't hold your breath on this one, upper-level winds can be a bitch!

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    lol

    5 minute delay for 'clock management' - not even gonna ask at this point.

    For those keeping track at home, we're not at 12:10pm Pacific, 3:10pm Eastern, 2010 UTC. Still plenty of time in this window, but if it doesn't go today, tomorrow's window is identical - 1:30pm - 4:30pm Eastern. No official backup dates after that, which is standard operations. Also dependent on whether or not the US government shuts down, as they operate the range and clear the rockets for launch >_>

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    About 90 minutes ago I posted T-~2 hours to launch, and I can once again say: T-~2 hours to launch.

    Isn't spaceflight lovely? :P

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
    DelmainElvenshaePolaritie
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    The clock requires further management, and we are now looking at 12:15pm Pacific, 3:15pm Eastern, 2015 UTC.

    T-~2 hours to launch! >_>

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • TraceTrace GNU Terry Pratchett; GNU Gus; GNU Carrie Fisher; GNU Adam We Registered User regular
    Elon's being a bit of a tease innit he.

    BeNarwhalElvenshaeBrody
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    The countdown clock is now "paused" while they determine a new T=0 ...

    That's not a great sign for today's chances, I have to admit. I'll keep y'all posted, though!

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • DelmainDelmain Registered User regular
    =(

    I'm busy tomorrow afternoon, Space-X

    I'd really prefer a launch today

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  • AthenorAthenor Who needs lions when you have a battlecruiser? Registered User regular
    Delmain wrote: »
    =(

    I'm busy tomorrow afternoon, Space-X

    I'd really prefer a launch today

    If it's any consolation, I'm sure they would too.

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  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Still waiting for what's being called the "final" adjustment to the T=0 time today, should be in the next 5 minutes.

    We'll get one more kick at the can, they'll likely fuel up and everything, and any scrub would be called with about 3 minutes left in the countdown. We shall see! Winds are a fickle mistress, though they're forecasting for lighter tomorrow, apparently. I've also heard the opposite. Apparently it depends who you ask.

    Weather is stupid, I've decided. :P

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
  • BeNarwhalBeNarwhal The Work Left Unfinished Registered User regular
    Reports on the ground of goats being ritually sacrificed in an effort to appease any and all wind deities. Everyone in the vicinity of the launch agrees that it is "the right thing to do". We'll see whether or not it's effective.

    Narwhal I think you should make "Sometimes while someone is explaining something to me, I am thinking about rockets" your signature
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