(click on the individual highlighted spacecraft names below for more details about each imaging sessions, predictions, equipment used etc.)
Yay I can proudly say finally that I took photos of all the currently used cargo vehicles servicing the International Space Station. Started with Cygnus OA-8 in December 2017, then the Progress MS-07 in April 2018, followed by HTV-7 in September 2018 and early December SpaceX Dragon. It all happened almost exactly in a 1 year time.
Honestly never dreamt about this, my main target was always the International Space Station. I remember when Cygnus OA-8 remained on Low Earth Orbit after finishing its main task on ISS, so I had this idea to give it a photographic try. I was using the same setup I normally use for ISS imaging, same focal length but the sensitivity of the camera (gain in Fire Capture, but probably equivalent to what we call ISO) was slightly higher because it was fainter relative to ISS. When I saw the first raw frames and the two circular shape solar arrays appeared on one frame – I knew we are in business… My 10″ scope turned out to be just big enough to reveal details on these small spacecrafts. After this I decided to try the same with all the other spacecrafts too.
But it is not as easy as it might sound. A few factors can ruin the carefully nurtured plans. First of all it does matter a lot if I have bright over head passes from my location or not. Even if it does it needs to coincide with the solo flyby of these cargo crafts either en route to ISS or leaving it and getting ready for reentry. If this happens as planned, weather is still there to ruin any attempts and of course it did numerous times before. But I kept my consistency and kept an eye on what is happening with the unmanned flights to and from ISS.
Slowly all the invested effort paid off!
This year will definitely remain one that I will never forget..