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The Jan. 2014 SpaceX flight went 1/4 of the way to the Moon

Posted by: Optimistic Brian - Sun Aug 03, 2014 6:27 am
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The Jan. 2014 SpaceX flight went 1/4 of the way to the Moon 
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Spaceflight Trainee
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Post The Jan. 2014 SpaceX flight went 1/4 of the way to the Moon   Posted on: Sun Aug 03, 2014 6:27 am
I had not known this, but according to SpaceX Stats (which, word of caution, is not run by SpaceX itself) the January 6, 2014 flight of Falcon 9 v. 1.1 carrying the Thaicom 6 satellite reached a GTO apogee of 91,590 km - between about 22% and 25% (i.e., a quarter) of the way to the Moon!

Or, to put it in more precise terms, it went roughly a quarter of the way to the distance equivalent to the Moon's orbit - but the actual location of the Moon was almost certainly not anywhere near aligned to the orbit in question, and definitely not in the same orbital plane. But still, it means that the current Falcon, without any modifications, can achieve Apollo-like views of the entire Earth as a complete globe in space. Views like this:

Image

Views that haven't been seen by human eyes since 1972. Or even without human eyes, it could easily deliver cheap nanosats with great cameras into high-apogee elliptical orbits to capture more great photos like that. And frankly we need them, because what passes for whole-Earth photography these days is nonsense - a bunch of color-tweaked mosaics stitched together from low-altitude satellite imagery that look nothing at all like what you'd see if you were up there. Does this cartoonish crap look like the above:

Image

Of course not. Because that second one is not a real photograph - it's a dimensional projection with arbitrary coloration based on countless images taken from far, far lower altitudes. And yet "images" like the second one are ubiquitous while the Apollo photos like the former are more obscure (except for a handful of very famous ones, like Earthrise or the one with Africa in it).

Anyway I just was surprised to hear that Falcon had already launched something a quarter of the way to the Moon. This means there's no reason we couldn't have real-time, ultra-high-altitude Earth imaging to give us magnificent views like the first one above.

Within the bounds of radiation safety that come into play with going through the Van Allen Belts, it also means crewed missions could get up there once Dragon V2 is operational, without having to use Falcon Heavy or a kick stage. In fact, there's no reason such a mission on a highly elliptical orbit should cost more than a circular LEO orbit, so once we have space tourism on Dragon V2, we can probably have those high-orbit Apollo-like views almost immediately rather than "merely" more of the same LEO views we've had from Shuttle and ISS.

So, potentially more of this, soon:

Image

And this:

Image

And this:

Image


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Space Walker
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Post Re: The Jan. 2014 SpaceX flight went 1/4 of the way to the Moon   Posted on: Thu Sep 18, 2014 1:42 pm
If there are imaging satellites at GEO rather than just communication satellites they can also take such images.

Bob Clark

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Post Re: The Jan. 2014 SpaceX flight went 1/4 of the way to the Moon   Posted on: Tue Sep 23, 2014 7:48 pm
Pretty . . .

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