Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Objects from the Ariane VA240 launch (Galileo 19, 20, 21, 22) observed from the Netherlands [UPDATED]

image 18:53 ~ 18:56 UT. Photograph (c) Klaas Jobse, Astronomy Project Oostkapelle
click to enlarge

On 12 December 2017 at 18:36:07 UT, an  Arianespace Ariane 5 ES rocket launched four Galileo navigation satellites into space from Kourou, French Guyana, for the European Space Agency (ESA).

Twenty minutes later, amateur astronomer Klaas Jobse (Astronomy Project Oostkapelle) in the village of Oostkapelle on the coast of the Netherlands imaged a phenomena in the sky (photograph above and photographs below). The imagery appears to show the tumbling Ariane EPC (Cryogenic Main Stage) and what appears to be a fuel dump cloud, about 10 minutes after separation of the EPC from the upper stage.

In one of the all sky images, a second trail is visible too (see detail image of all sky image below): this might be the EPS Upper Stage with the satellites, around the moment it shuts down and starts its coasting phase.

All Sky image. (c) Klaas Jobse, Astronomy Project Oostkapelle
click to enlarge
detail of the previous image.
(c) Klaas Jobse, Astronomy Project Oostkapelle
click to enlarge
All Sky image. (c) Klaas Jobse, Astronomy Project Oostkapelle
click to enlarge

detail of the previous image.
(c) Klaas Jobse, Astronomy Project Oostkapelle
click to enlargee
The flashing behaviour of the main trail (the suspected spent Cryogenic Main Stage) is probably due to tumbling after separation from the upper stage. On the first image (the one at the top of this post), which is a 30 seconds exposure, it is flashing 9 times, or about once every 3.3 seconds.

The images were captured by the automated routine meteor fireball patrol camera's of Astronomy Project Oostkapelle, which make continuous photographs of the night sky every clear night.

This is the approximate trajectory of the launch which I reconstructed from the Area Broadcast Warnings and information in the Arianespace presskit. It is approximate only:

click map to enlarge




Update 1, 13 Dec 2017, 23:00 UT:

The map above was based on ascend to the parking orbit of the Upper stage. Below is a 178 x 3440 km, 54.95 degree inclined reconstructed orbit for the EPC Cryogenic Main Stage, fitted to match measurements on the first image (the image in top of this post). Orbital position shown is for 18:56 UT:

click map to enlarge
 The rocket stage probably de-orbitted near the end of the first revolution, at about 20:40 UT.


 Update 2, 14 Dec 2017, 22:45 UT:

An engineer supporting the launch (@Dutchspace on Twitter) provided the info that the EPC Cryogenic Main Stage should have been in a 42 x 3340 km, 55.35 degree inclined orbit after separation and depressurization, with de-orbit at longitude 90.28 W. The elset and map below suit those constraints, and fit the observations from Oostkapelle closely:

click map to enlarge

Ariane EPC r/b                                           42 x 3340 km
1 70004U 17999C   17346.77516204 0.00000000  00000-0  00000+0 0    07
2 70004  55.3500 305.8931 2043588 353.6368 349.8559 11.97683367    04

rms 0.06



Update 3, 16 Dec 2017, 11:00 UT:

The phenomena was also imaged from Germany (see this article in Der Spiegel, which quotes me) and from Belgium.


(I thank Klaas Jobse for permission to publish his photographs. Photographs (c) Klaas Jobse, Astronomy Project Oostkapelle)

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