Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Seen in the Sky Over Northern Norway, This Morning. ... Subtitle: Oh My God, We've Just Lost Power on the Port Reindeer! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!

This lasted for, according to many witnesses, over a large area of northern Norway, about two minutes.
So far, nobody has come up with a definitive explanation.
The most persuasive one so far is that we're seeing the traces left by a Russian ballistic missile, spinning out of control, and ejecting a fine mist of fuel vapour as it spins. This vapour is sufficiently far into the upper atmosphere to be illuminated by the sun, long before sunrise occurs at ground-level, just as vapour trails from high flying aircraft are often illuminated in the pre-dawn sky.

The Russian Navy is exercising in the White Sea, not so very far away, but..... the Russians deny any launches at or around 7:45 a.m. local time.

There do seem to be sufficiently large a number of reports from different sources to suggest it's not a hoax

Station F - F Archangelsk,RUS
2009-12-08 16:54:55 (GMT+0)
Signal quality 100
Message number 79 Type A (Nav warning)

031230 UTC DEC 09
09 DC 0200 TO 0900 10 DEC 0100 TO 0900
65-12.6N 036-37.0E 65-37.2N 036-26.0E
66-12.3N 037-19.0E 66-04.0N 037-47.0E
66-03.0N 038-38.0E 66-06.5N 038-55.0E
65-11.0N 037-28.0E 65-12.1N 036-49.5E
THEN COASTAL LINE 65-12.2N 036-47.6E

"Russia’s troubled Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile will be test-fired on November 24. Of the 11 test launches that have been conducted so far, only five have been successful.

The missile will be launched from the nuclear powered Typhoon-class submarine Dmitry Donskoy, which is the only vessel in service with the Russian Navy capable of testing the new missile, RIA Novosti reports.

The Bulava was last test-fired from the Dmitry Donskoi in the North Sea on July 15, but self-destructed soon after launch due to a defective steering system in its first stage."

Source: Barents Observer

The Bulava is a 5,000 mile range intercontinental ballistic missile, with capability for multiple re-entry warheads. Somehow that seems like a return to the bad old days of the cold war.

I'm sure things will become clearer in the next few days. But I wish I'd been there to see this strangely beautiful happening.

Update:- Russian Defence Ministry have today confirmed it was a Bulava missile, launched from the submarine Dmitry Donskoi. "It has been established ... that the missile's first two stages worked as normal, but there was a technical malfunction at the next, third, stage of the trajectory," a Defense Ministry spokesman said."

A very expensive light-show. Half of Russia's military budget has been going into these missiles, recently, and 8 out of 12 launches have been failures. In this case, a very visible one. The builder blames the failures on poor quality components coming from the 650 suppliers, and says this would not have happened under the soviet regime. Hm. And under the soviet regime, he might reflect, the chances are that he'd be lucky to get sent to a gulag.

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  1. What pretty pictures! I was going to vote for PhotoShop, but I guess they have the fuel vapor thing which is more exciting.

    The missiles are not all the threatening if they don't work. Just sayin'.

  2. I recall being told that you're safer being shot at, from a distance, by a marksman than an incompetent idiot, because the idiot was more likely to hit you by accident.

    What's scariest is that so many countries, yours and mine included, think they need these things.

  3. Oh my god, we've lost power on the port reindeer, oh my god, MAYDAY! MAYDAY!

  4. My very first rocket i built back in the 7th grade had a little flight problem. As i set it up on the launch pad, one of the four fins fell off. I had waited all night for the glue to dry, and I wasn't going to let something like a loose fin deter me or force the mission to be scrubbed. I took the fin, licked it and stuck it back onto the rocket, held it for a moment and let go.
    It worked! The fin stayed on the rocket. I ran back to my launch button and said to Scott "Here goes nuthin!" amd flipped the switch.
    into the sky it burst, a white cloud streaming from the exhaust. It got about 30 feet off the pad in less than a second, took a right hand turn and headed straight for Scott and I.
    "GANGWAY!" I yelled and Scott and I hit the deck.
    I was hooked!
    I ended up being President of the Rocket Club the very next year.

  5. Heyyyyyyy!!!!!!
    That's officially cool, you're a rocket scientist!
    I used to make model planes, out of balsa and tissue, i couldn't afford a real little glowplug piston-engine, but you could buy things called Jetex motors pretty cheaply. they were just a little steel capsule, held together with a spring clip, which took two or more pellets of solid fuel. In one end of the capsule was a small hole, you stuck a fuse in there, lit it, the solid fuel ignited, emitting a fierce jet of hot gas through the hole.
    It was a solid-fuel rocket.
    Usually my planes had some flaw, like um. a twisted wing..... so flights tended to be cut short by a spinflip and suicide dive. Sometimes the rocket exhaust would torch the plane. Luckily, unlike your rocket, they never decided to aim their revenge at me .


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