Captain’s Log, Stardate 13413.8

The SpaceX CRS-3 mission, previously delayed to November 11, is now scheduled for launch on December 9. Using a free launch means that the launch date is dependent on NASA and the needs of the ISS. As a result, there will be more time to test hardware and software before KIckSat and its Sprites reach orbit.

In the mean time, the Cornell team has begun machining structural parts for the cubesat that will be part of the final unit to be sent into space. Additionally, GNURadio install scripts for various flavors of Linux have been released on the KickSat GitHub. A wiki describes the install process for those interested in building a local ground station.

Modeling the Atmosphere, pt. 3

Pressure (y-axis) as a function of height (z-axis)

Pressure (y-axis) as a function of height (z-axis)

Parts one and two of modeling the atmosphere derived a way to describe atmospheric pressure as a function of altitude, assuming a constant temperature and acceleration due to gravity throughout the ideal gas. In this installment of Modeling the Atmosphere, the same function will be derived, this time using the Boltzmann distribution.

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Modeling the Atmosphere, pt. 2

The previous Modeling the Atmosphere post derived an expression for describing the change in pressure dP with respect to change in altitude dz in terms of density \rho and acceleration due to gravity g:

\frac{dP}{dz} = -\rho g

This equation is short to write, but it is not particularly useful. Before applying it to real-life situations, it must be transformed into the barometric equation.

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CRS-2 Succeeds Despite Early Mishap

CRS-2 Dragon in OrbitAfter spending nearly a month in space, the Dragon capsule from SpaceX landed in the Pacific ocean on Tuesday, March 26. This splashdown marked the end of SpaceX’s second commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. These resupply missions support the work and well being of the ISS crew since the end of the NASA Space Shuttle program in 2011. For this reason, moments were particularly tense when it appeared that the Dragon capsule might not be able to reach the station after achieving orbit.

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SpaceX CRS-2 to Launch March 1

The CRS-2 Falcon 9 rocket undergoing a static fire in preparations for launch

The CRS-2 Falcon 9 rocket undergoes a static fire in preparation for launch

As explained previously, KickSat and its payload of Sprites launches on the SpaceX CRS-3/ELaNa-5 mission no earlier than 2 October 2013. The final launch date depends on several factors, one in particular being the success of the SpaceX CRS-2 mission. The CRS-1 mission, summarized in an earlier post, started shaky but ended strong – an overall success.

Barring setbacks, CRS-2 launches tomorrow, March 1. A SpaceX Dragon capsule will be carried into orbit by one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. The Dragon capsule is expected to reach the International Space Station the next day. Read on for NASA’s official mission overview and links to live internet streams of the launch.

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Modeling the Atmosphere, pt. 1

There’s a physics joke where a dairy farmer calls up the local university asking for some help improving his cow business. He ends up on the phone with a physicist, who assures the man that a solution can be found. Months later the farmer gets a call back. It’s the physicist, who says excitedly, “I can can help you, but my model only works for the case of spherical cows in a vacuum.”

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