[FPSPACE] comments on the ISS on-board views of topol launch

James Oberg jameseoberg at comcast.net
Sat Oct 12 14:52:40 EDT 2013


The squiggly line must be a file photo of an earlier launch, so disregard it, but the two separate images from on board are full of information [first you have to flip one of them -- task, task, author!]. You can identify the stars as in Ophiuchus-Serpens, so the views are to the west as ISS is passing far in front of the missile, maybe 3000 km or so. 

Since it's moving mostly eastwards, the stars are setting behind the scene, so Parmitano's photo is earlier than Hopkins's. 

Measuring the stars along the Ophiuchus-Serpens boundary that are identifiable in both photos, gives an angle scale to the pictures, and knowing the star background angle rate in orbit - 4 degrees per minutes - provides an estimate of the time separation of the two views, about half a minute. 

In the second image the apparition has also shifted several degrees to the left against the star background, due to parallax of the ISS's rightward motion [some northwards component]. 

At the range of Hopkins's photo, the rocket plume is clearly "beyond the horizon", blocked from view along the bottom by Earth horizon/cloud layers, that's why it looks "chopped off" there.

Thanks to Jonathan McDowell and Ted Molczan for quantitative specifications. These numbers allow us to project an imaginary third dimension into this scene and better understand the dynamics of it. 

Now compare the two off-forward-angle ISS images to an aft oblique view from Tyumen, and you can see the same cloud shape features: an aft 'hollow core", and four circumferential notches that muct be a consequence of plume expanasion from four nozzles, or four steering vanes. 

There would never be any hazard to ISS of launching Topol so far out-of-plane and behind it,  Topol's altitutde even while thrusting was far higher than ISS's, but in terms of accidental collision, "you can't get there from here" applies. 

The question remains -- how did TWO [at least] ISS crewmembers happen to be at an ISS window AFTER sunset, with their cameras ready? Which window? And did any good window in the Russian segment have an equally high-quality view, and were cosmonauts at the window, forwarned?
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