What is SpaceX currently working on

ISS: When you will see the space station in the sky - and why it is particularly worthwhile now

The ISS can be seen particularly well in the night sky from mid-May. A special moment right now: After almost a decade, a manned NASA flight will start again from the USA - with a SpaceX rocket.

The ISS is visible to the naked eye in the sky from Earth.

Photo: NASA

When it comes to proportions, the Saarland often has to serve - or the soccer field. Both are clear and are so well suited because of the clarity. The average human mind can do more with it than with abstract quantities like “hectares”.

It is the same with the International Space Station ISS. With its solar panels, it is pretty much the same size as a soccer field (and thus corresponds to 0.0000027784 Saarland, if that's what you're interested in).

ISS can be seen with the naked eye in the sky

That’s the ISS the largest structure of mankind outside the earth and for that reason alone fascinates many of us with good reason. The ISS orbits 400 kilometers above our planet and can be seen with the naked eye - but not always: Because of its orbit, it is often already or still too bright when the space station moves over us.

Black hole visible to the naked eye

In the summer months and shortly before, however, the conditions are much better: When the ISS orbit passes over us, it is illuminated by the sun below the northern horizon and is very well recognizable as a luminous object in the dark night sky. It takes a few minutes before the ISS disappears from view. It always “starts” in the west, that is, where the sun has set, and then moves its orbit towards the east. Sometimes it can be seen rather close to the horizon, sometimes rather high in the sky.

Live map shows where the ISS is located

The German Aerospace Center has published a list on the Internet of where and when the ISS can be seen, including the number of degrees, which indicates whether the space station appears rather flat or high in the sky (a value for good visibility should be at least 30 degrees) .

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For example, the ISS can be observed in these cities on the following dates:

  • Berlin:
    • Saturday, May 16, 11:04 p.m., visibility: 6 minutes at 41 °
    • Sunday, May 17th, 12:41 am, visibility: 6 minutes at 77 °
    • Monday, May 18, 1:30 a.m., visibility: 6 minutes at 65 °
  • Düsseldorf:
    • Saturday, May 16, 1:28 a.m., visibility: 6 minutes at 82 °
    • Sunday, May 17th, 12:40 a.m., visibility: 6 minutes at 88 °
    • Monday, May 18, 1:29 am Visibility: 6 minutes at 86 °
  • Munich:
    • Saturday, May 16, 1:28 a.m., visibility: 6 minutes at 43 °
    • Sunday, May 17th, 12:41 am, visibility: 6 minutes at 44 °
    • Monday, May 18, 1:30 a.m., visibility: 6 minutes at 50 °

There are several live maps on the internet that show the current position of the ISS. For example here.

ISS: SpaceX starts manned flight

If you want to take pictures of the ISS in the night sky, you should make sure to use a tripod and set a long exposure time of at least 30 seconds or more on your camera. Then the space station can be seen as a glowing stripe on the picture.

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It is especially exciting now to observe the ISS from Earth. Of course, you can't see the exact process, but you know: An event is currently happening that is almost historical. Because on May 27, the US space agency Nasa wants to send astronauts from the USA to the International Space Station ISS for the first time in almost a decade. We report here. NASA is celebrating the upcoming mission with plenty of pathos under the hashtag #LaunchAmerica.

SpaceX had previously only transported cargo to the ISS

It is not without a certain irony: since the end of the space shuttle era, the US space agency no longer had its own access to the international space station. In July 2011 the “Atlantis” flew for the last time from the USA. Since then, the US has had to buy seats for its astronauts in Russian Soyuz capsules. Russia is paying dearly for these places and is raising its prices more and more, which has long caused displeasure in the USA for financial and geopolitical reasons.

Phenomenon of x-shaped galaxies solved

At the end of May, a manned rocket is to be launched from the Cape Canaveral spaceport for the first time. Nasa astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will then be on board a “CrewDragon” with a “Falcon 9” rocket from the private space company SpaceX owned by Elon Musk. It would not only be the first launch from the United States to the ISS in nine years, but also the first manned flight from SpaceX to the space station.

The ISS is mankind's largest structure outside of the earth.

Photo: NASA

So far, SpaceX has only brought cargo to the ISS. The upcoming mission on May 27th was the “last flight test” of SpaceX, according to NASA. The precision work required by the docking maneuver when there is no autopilot can now be tested by anyone in a simulator that SpaceX has made available on the internet.

ISS operations continue in the Corona crisis

Despite the great moment for NASA: There won't be many spectators at the spaceport in Florida. Due to the corona pandemic, their number is to be limited. In view of the Corona crisis, NASA has already restricted its work, but the operation of the ISS continues.

Only recently three space travelers (the US astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan and the Russian Oleg Skripotschka) landed safely in a Soyuz capsule in the Kazakh steppe on Earth. At the moment, only the US astronaut Christopher Cassidy and the two Russians Anatoli Iwanischin and Iwan Wagner are on board the ISS.

US astronaut Christopher Cassidy on the ISS.

Photo: NASA

SpaceX: Not NASA's only contractor

For years, NASA has been planning to tackle manned space travel again. In addition to SpaceX, aircraft manufacturer Boeing was also commissioned to develop transporters for astronauts. However, Boeing's “Starliner” failed to make it to the ISS on its first attempt in December. But there should be more tests.

Also read:
The first photo of a black hole

Telescope Alma seeks water in the universe

Astronaut Ulrich Walter: Starlink is a milestone like the internet itself

A contribution by:

  • Peter Seven

    Peter Sieben is content manager and responsible editor for ingenieur.de. After an internship at the Funke media group, he worked as an editor and reporter in various departments. He writes about technology, research and career topics.