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  Spotting solar-orbiting Saturn V stages

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Author Topic:   Spotting solar-orbiting Saturn V stages
Obviousman
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posted 01-31-2009 09:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The S-IV-Bs that were sent into solar orbit - when is the first (Apollo 11?) expected to wing its way back to us, and about how close will it pass to Earth?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-31-2009 09:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Astronomers at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab identified an S-IVB stage in September 2002 based on its paint.
"Rather than looking like a known asteroid, the colors were consistent with the spectral properties of an object covered with white Titanium oxide (TiO) paint," Hergenrother said. "The Apollo Saturn S-IVB upper stages were painted with TiO paint," he noted.

Observations conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology further confirmed the UA astronomers research. Infrared spectra "confirm that J002E3 is a dead ringer for white TiO paint," Hergenrother added.

As a result, the UA astronomers concluded that object J002E3 is most likely a S-IVB stage from either Apollo 8, 10, 11, or 12, with Apollo 12 being most likely.

Obviousman
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posted 02-04-2009 04:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Robert.

By any chance are there predictions about when the others might appear?

ilbasso
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posted 02-05-2009 04:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's my understanding that the orbits are unpredictable and somewhat chaotic. Even though we know the parameters of the engine burns that put the S-IVb's into solar orbit, there was outgassing from the stages that imparted other forces to alter their trajectories. Toss in the three-body problem of the effects of Sun, Moon, and Earth, add a pinch of solar radiation pressure, and bake for 40 years, and you have an uncertainty souffle.

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 02-05-2009 04:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is the JPL animation of the motion of J002E3, showing how the object was captured into its 2002/03 chaotic orbit around the Earth.

------------------
Scott Schneeweis
http://www.SPACEAHOLIC.com/

Jay Chladek
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posted 02-07-2009 11:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just thought of a cool mission for an Orion to fly, rendezvous with J002E3 and collect data on how well a 50 year old rocket stage (you know if will probably be 50 years from Apollo 11 before an Orion flies such a mission) has weathered the elements of space. At least it would be easier to get to potentially then an asteroid, yet still provide its own challenges in terms of orbital mechanics and rendezvous.

Obviousman
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posted 02-08-2009 12:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How much scientific data could be gathered from such a mission?

Or would it just be way cool?

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 02-08-2009 06:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Think about the LDEF experiment x10 or more (in terms of total exposure time to the cosmic environment). If such a mission were executed would prefer Snoopy's ascent stage be targeted for retrieval instead.

Obviousman
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posted 02-09-2009 12:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Now that would be something.

Could you image an actual flown LM ascent stage on display? Wow!

Lou Chinal
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posted 02-10-2009 06:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As a result, the UA astronomers concluded that object J002E3 is most likely a S-IVB stage from either Apollo 8, 10, 11, or 12, with Apollo 12 being most likely.
It is my understanding that the SIVB from Apollo 9 is also in orbit around the sun.

After LM3 was extracted the SIVB's engine was burned boosting it to escape velocity. I think mainly to get it out of the way.

-Lou

ilbasso
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posted 02-10-2009 07:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sending the S-IVb on a trip toward the Moon was actually one of the options for Apollo 8.

According to the "Saturn V Mission C-Prime Implementation Plan" of September 18, 1968, the baseline Apollo 8 mission was an Earth orbit of the CSM. After separation of the CSM from the booster, the S-IVb would be sent on a lunar trajectory and from there into deep space. [Actually sending the CSM toward the Moon as well was in options 2 and 3.] Sending the S-IVb to the Moon even without the Apollo CSM was a way to practice tracking and other procedures.

Jay Chladek
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posted 02-10-2009 10:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Going after Snoopy would be cool, but I am pretty sure that I read somewhere the mascons eventually distorted the orbit of Snoopy, causing it to crash into the moon. As such, there isn't really anything left to study (assuming my memory is correct). Plus, if we do make it back to the moon, effects on the LM after a 50 year period could be studied by taking samples from one of the Apollo landing sites (not Apollo 11 more then likely, but probably 15, 16 or 17 due to the amount of different equipment there, from the descent stage, to the rovers, to the PLSS backpacks and trash).

And yes, I was thinking that a rendezvous with a spent S-IVB would be very much like LDEF in terms of data it might have to give. LDEF was a low earth orbit object where as we have never to my knowledge studied anything that spent a significantly longer time outside the protection of Earth's magnetic field. Reason I was thinking of this had to do with future manned or unmanned expeditions to other planets. Granted we have a lot of data from unmanned probes giving us an idea of how well they have weathered their flights. But there is no data to my knowledge as to how well the materials themselves have survived. Want to build a colony on the moon and theorize the long term effects on it? Study an S-IVB and you might get some answers to go with analysis of an Apollo landing site for effects of the lunar environment after 50 years.

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 02-11-2009 08:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
Going after Snoopy would be cool, but I am pretty sure that I read somewhere the mascons eventually distorted the orbit of Snoopy, causing it to crash into the moon.

Perhaps you are referring to the descent stage; the ascent stage departed lunar orbit after firing its main propulsion system to depletion for insertion into heliocentric orbit.

Jay Chladek
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posted 02-11-2009 10:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I might be thinking of Eagle actually since I understand it was parked in lunar orbit to test the electronics with no cooling water. It I believe eventually crashed into the moon several months later due to the distortion of the orbit from the mascons.

If Snoopy is still out there, it would be a potentially good target, assuming one can find it. At least S-IVB stages are potentially easier to spot.

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