Saturday, October 12, 2013

Mystery Rocket Launch Seen From Space Station Explained

Last night, ESA/Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano posted some bizarre photos via his Twitter account from the International Space Station. A mystery rocket contrail could be seen rising above the Earth’s twilight horizon.

A missile launch seen from space: an unexpected surprise! — Luca Parmitano (@astro_luca) October 11, 2013
This oddity was all the more strange as there were no scheduled launches by NASA (due to the government shutdown) or from any U.S. commercial spaceflight company. Russia and Europe also had no scheduled launches at that time. Still, something had been fired into space.

One photograph shows the wiggly trail of a white contrail — exhaust and water vapor created by a rocket’s passage through the atmosphere; odd pattern forming after being buffeted by high altitude winds. Then, in another dramatic snapshot, Parmitano posted a weird-looking cloud dominating the photograph caused by the rocket disintegrating over the Earth .

After doing some digging, Nancy Atkinson over at Universe Today found the answer, courtesy of the Russian Forces blog:

The Strategic Rocket Forces carried out a successful test launch of a Topol/SS-25 missile on October 10, 2013. The missile was launched at 17:39 MSK (13:39 UTC) from Kapustin Yar to the Sary Shagan test site in Kazakhstan. According to a representative of the Rocket Forces, the test was used to confirm characteristics of the Topol missile, to test the systems of the Sary Shagan test site, and “to test new combat payload for intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

More - Link >>>

Sources: The Discovery Channel, Universe Today.

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