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Real Space: The Missions


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“The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of
cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's
no good reason to go into space - each discovered, studied, and
remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.”

― Randall Munroe



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Pop Chart Labs




Join us, @DiscoSlelge, @HooHungLow and me in a journey trough the history of man's space exploration!!


This is a series about real space exploration missions complemented with their history, objectives and details about the boosters who launched them.

Missions from the past, present and future are planned, always trying to be accurate but without exhausting details, and also keeping  stock-alike aesthetics.




Chapter 1





Edited by Drakenex
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The TDRS Network



Not exactly an exploration mission, the Tracking and Data Realy Satellite network of communication satellites  brings connectivity to several key components for NASA and various US agencies.

Constituted by 10 operational spacecraft across 3 Generations, the TDRS Network operates in S, Ka and Ku bands supporting basic telemetry and data relay, high speed internet access and basic navigation.

Satellite Generations:

  • First Generation TDRS: models A to G - Launched by the Space Shuttle
  • Second Generation TDRS: models H to J - Launched by the Atlas IIA
  • Third Generation TDRS: models K to M - Launched by the Atlas V 401


The Missions:


Launched by: Space Shuttle Atlantis  + IUS (inertial upper stage) on STS-70

Launch date: 13 July 1995

Launch site: KSC LC-39B



Discovery lifts off at 13:41:55 UTC



Shuttle's ET (external tank) separates from the orbiter and will re-enter the atmosphere being destroyed


Discovery cargo bay opens revealing its payload


The TDRS+IUS payload is released and separates from the orbiter


They will slowly separate before igniting the IUS first stage engine


About an hour later, IUS ignites, raising its payload to GTO (Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit)


IUS second stage takes over


TDRS-G separates from the truss attaching it to the IUS


The Satellite deploys its solar panels and antennas


Afters it commissioning period, the satellite  became fully operational







Launched by: Atlas IIA

Launch date: 30 June 2000

Launch site: KSC SLC-36A


Lift-off! of Atlas IIA Carrying the TDRS-8 Satellite


1 vacuum optimized engine + 2 sustainers powers the Atlas IIA



Like all its predecessors before it, the Atlas IIA 1 and a 1/2 stage detaches leaving its main engine alone


Also, like a great part of the Atlas family, the centaur upper stage takes over making the payload orbit insertion


Twin RL-10 cryogenic engines power the high energy Centaur


The second-gen TDRS satellite deploys panels and antennas


and enters service after it commissioning period







Launched by: Atlas V 401

Launch date: 31 January 2013

Launch site: KSC SLC-41


No so different than the last one, so I'll only cover some differences.


The NPO Energomash powered Atlas V



MECO (Main Engine Cut-Off) and retro-fire


The TDRS satellite firing its own engine to circularize its orbit





Well, see you next mission time!!



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Mars and phobos obersavtion

Phobos 2

Mission purpose : investigate on Mars atmosphere gaz composition and mars's moon.

Launch date : 12 july 1988

Launch site and launch vehicle : Baikonur; Proton K.


Proton K ready to launch.


At 17:01 Proton rises


Minutes after the launch the third stage enters in action.


LOK last stage kicks Phobos 2 on way to Mars !


The 29 January 1989 Phobos 2 enters in orbit around Mars and makes a quick fly by uppon Phobos


See you next time !


Edited by DiscoSlelge
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Operation Paperclip: The German Connection



During World War II the V-2 rocket was amongst the most advanced weapons produced by Naz!-Germany. Hundreds of V-2 Rockets were launched against Allied targets. Near the end of the war the United States and Soviet Union rushed to confiscate and reverse engineer the Naz! technology as a means to produce even more sophisticated weaponry for wars to come. In order to stifle the efforts of the Soviet Union, the United States launched Operation Paperclip, a secret program that recruited German scientist and engineers, such as former SS-Sturmbannführer Wernher von Braun to work for the US Military. With the help of von Braun, the US captured 100 V-2 rockets to the recently established White Sands Missile Range. From 1946-1951 the US Army fired 67 V-2 rockets from the site. 

The Missions:

V-2/A4 Testing

Launched by: US confiscated V-2 Rockets

Launch date(s): 1946-1951

Launch site: Launch Complex 33, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA



Edited by HooHungLow
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  • 1 month later...

Interim I


Near future

The Dawn of Private Space



Near Future

SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace Joint Space Station

Low Earth Orbit


Space tourism, medical and biological research, micro-gravity manufacturing ... only budgets not legislation nor the public eye will limit the capabilities  and reach of private orbital endeavors




Serviced and crewed by private developed (although stated funded) spacecraft, they represent the cutting  edge of aerospace technology


SpaceX Dragon V2

A Falcon 9, Spacex workhorse, launches it into orbit







Boeing Starliner CST-100

A man-rated Atlas V in an unique 422 configuration soars into orbit carrying Boeing's contribution 










Cargo dedicated spacecraft also constitutes an integral part of the service fleet 


SpaceX Dragon Cargo





And Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser Cargo

Also lifted by the mighty Atlas V in the powerful 552 configuration













From contractors to protagonists, private companies will surpass governments, with a different motivation but the same goal: reaching for the stars







Edited by Drakenex
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  • 3 weeks later...

Chapter 2



A joint mission between NASA, ESA and Italy, explored Saturn's system for almost 15 years.

  • Launch mass: 5,712 kg (12,593 lb)
  • Power: ~885 watts (BOL); ~670 watts (2010); ~663 watts (EOM/2017)
  • Rocket: Titan IV/Centaur
  • Orbital insertion: July 1, 2004, 02:48 UTC
  • Launch: Oct 15, 1997
  • EOM: Sep 15, 2017
  • Dry mass: 2,523 kg (5,562 lb)





Launch and Cruise Phase

15 October 1997 01:43 Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) – Cassini launched at 08:43 UTC inside Titan IVB/Centaur rocket.


Centaur Upper Stage sends the spacecraft into its journey



3 December 1998 22:06 PST – Cassini fired its main rocket engine for 90 minutes, setting the spacecraft on course for its second Venus flyby in 1999. The engine burn slowed the spacecraft by close to 450 meters per second (about 1,006 miles per hour) relative to the Sun. Cassini's speed went from 67,860 kilometers per hour (42,168 miles per hour) at the start of the maneuver to 66,240 kilometers per hour (41,161 miles per hour) at the end of the engine firing.


24 June 1999 13:30 PDT – Gravity-assisted flyby of Venus at 623 km.[12]


18 August 1999 03:28 UTC − Gravity-assisted flyby of Earth. An hour 20 minutes before closest approach, Cassini made the closest approach to the Moon at 377,000 km, and took a series of calibration images. The spacecraft flew past Earth at a distance of 1,171 kilometers (728 mi), passing most closely above the eastern South Pacific at 23.5°S 128.5°W. Cassini received a 5.5-kilometer-per-second (about 12,000-mile-per-hour) boost in velocity.

30 December 2000 10:05 UTC − Gravity-assisted flyby of Jupiter. Cassini was at its closest point (9.7 million kilometres, 137 Jovian radii) to Jupiter at this date, and performed many scientific measurements.[15] It also produced the most detailed global color portrait of Jupiter ever produced (seen on the right); the smallest visible features are approximately 60 km (37 mi) across.



Primary Mission Phase

18 May 2004Cassini entered the Saturn system. The gravitational pull of Saturn began to overtake the influence of the Sun.


1 July 2004 – The Saturn Orbit Insertion burn was successfully executed. At 7:11 p.m. PDT (10:11 p.m. EDT), Cassini crossed the ring plane between Saturn's F and G rings. Its antenna was oriented forward acting as a shield against small ring particles. At 7:36 p.m. PDT (10:36 p.m. EDT), the spacecraft began a critical 96-minute main engine burn to cut its velocity by 626 meters per second and permit a 0.02 x 9 million kilometer Saturn orbit. Right after that burn, pictures of the rings were taken and sent back to mission scientist as the spacecraft approached within 19,980 kilometers (12,400 miles) from the cloud tops.




The Spacecraft maneuvers to intercept Titan



25 December 2004 – Huygens probe separated from Cassini orbiter at 02:00 UTC.


27 December – NASA published a picture of Huygens taken from Cassini two days after release. It reported that the analysis of that picture shows that the probe is on the correct course within the expected error range. These checks were necessary in order to place the orbiter in the correct orientation to receive the data from the probe when it enters Titan's atmosphere.


28 December 2004 – OTM-10 was executed at 03:00 UTC in Spacecraft Event Time. This maneuver, also called the Orbit Deflection Maneuver (ODM), took Cassini off of a Titan-impacting trajectory and on to a flyby trajectory with the required altitude to receive data from the Huygens probe as it plunges into Titan.


14 January 2005 – Huygens entered Titan's atmosphere at 09:06 UTC and had landed softly on its surface about two hours later. This was confirmed by the reception of the carrier wave emitted by the probe during its descent and touchdown. At 16:19 UTC the Cassini orbiter started to relay to Earth the scientific data received from the probe. The first picture was released at 19:45 UTC, showing a view from about 16 km above the surface. A second picture taken from the probe at rest on the surface was released a short time later. Analysis of the data is ongoing.


Heat Shield Ejected - Parachute Opened


Cassini records and then relays all data collected by Huygens


Saturn in the background (artist concept)


Touch down


First human made object to land in the outer solar system



3 May 2005 – Cassini begins Radio occultation experiments on Saturn's Rings, to determine ring particle size distribution, on the scale of centimeters.



10 May 2005 – At the beginning of a period of focussed observation of the ring system of Saturn, slated to take until September, mission scientists announced the discovery of a new moon in the "Keeler gap" inside the "A" ring. Provisionally named S/2005 S 1 and later named Daphnis, it was first seen in a time-lapse sequence of images taken on 1 May. Imaging scientists had predicted the new moon's presence and its orbital distance from Saturn after last July's sighting of a set of peculiar spiky and wispy features in the Keeler gap's outer edge.




Equinox and Solstice Phase


June - October 2009 – Cassini observed Saturn during its equinox, or the time of Saturn's year where the sun is directly over its equator.

On 3 February 2010, NASA announced that a second mission extension until May 2017, a few months past Saturn's summer solstice, had been funded. The schedule included an additional 155 orbits, with 54 flybys of Titan, 11 of Enceladus ,22 of Rhea, and 3 of Dione. One of the flybys of Titan dipped below the ionosphere.




Grand Finale

On 15 September 2017, Cassini was deliberately disposed of via a controlled fall into Saturn's atmosphere, ending its nearly two-decade-long mission.
The last signal was received at 04:55:46 PDT.









Thanks to @akronfor his awesome Cassini-Huygens rendition and @CobaltWolf for his excellent Titan/Centaur launcher




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