BulgariaSat-1 will launch into space atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket this coming Saturday afternoon from Cape Canaveral, FL, USA.
In addition to being the nation’s first geostationary communications satellite, this launch will also add a note to the history of spaceflight as the second such launch to utilize a previously flown booster. The flight is the latest in SpaceX’s ambitious development program to make reusable launch vehicles 100% reusable in the hopes of reducing the overall cost of access to space by an order of magnitude. The first stage of this particular rocket was launched on January 14 and carried multiple satellites to add to the Iridium communications constellation before successfully landing under its own power.
“Elon Musk and his SpaceX team have convinced me that people like them bring us closer to a new quality of life through providing access to cutting-edge technology,” stated BulgariaSat chief executive Maxim Zayakov. “This is a chance for Bulgaria to join the efforts to develop these new aspects of space industry.”
The scheduled two-hour long launch window opens at 1410 EDT (1810 UTC) from the historic Launch Complex 39A, the former launching pad of the American Space Shuttle. The launch will be streamed live from SpaceX’s YouTube channel and at spacex.com.
SpaceX is set to launch yet another commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). A Falcon9 will carry an unmanned Dragon into the black from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:55pm EDT on Thursday evening, June 1 (If no attempt at a launch is possible during the instantaneous launch window, a backup launch window is set for Saturday, June 3 at 5:07pm EDT).
As is often the case with SpaceX launches, this one aims to make a bit of history. First off, it will be the 100th launch from LC-39A, which has been the site of myriad launches from the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs as well as more recent SpaceX launches. In addition, the Dragon space capsule being used to support the CRS-11 mission previously resupplied the International Space Station on SpaceX’s CRS-4 mission in September of 2014.
CRS-11 is the eleventh of up to twenty planned commercial resupply missions to the ISS by Elon Musk and company. This time around, the Dragon will carry almost 3 tons of supplies and payloads, including critical materials that are needed to support many of the more than 250 science experiments that will occur during ISS Expeditions 52 and 53. ISS crew members will use the station’s robotic “Canadarm2” to reach out and capture the Dragon spacecraft and attach it to the station on June 4. She’ll stay berthed to the station for approximately one month, at which time she’ll return to Earth laden with experiments and other materials being sent home from the ISS and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
And when the Falcon9 breaks atmo and sends the Dragon on her way, the first stage booster will return to land at SpaceX’s LZ-1 landing zone at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Considered to be impractical if not impossible by many skeptics just a few years ago, this has now become almost a standard feature of SpaceX launches, with the only real question asked nowadays being “will they bring it back by land or by sea?”
CRS-11 is also a special mission for us here at Take Back the Sky, because we hope to convince SpaceX to name the first Dragon 2 variant of this very spacecraft (which is being developed to transport American crews to and from the station as early as 2018) after the transport ship Serenity from Joss Whedon’s sci-fi series Firefly (and the subsequent motion picture that shared its name with the ship). A successful resupply mission involving a Dragon is always a great opportunity for Browncoats to write a letter to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and president Gwynne Shotwell to congratulate them on their ongoing success and let them know that they think Serenity would be a very shiny name for the first Dragon to take US astronauts into the black.
SpaceX’s webcast of the launch will go live approximately 20 minutes before liftoff. We invite you to watch along with us, and envision what it will be like to watch a Dragon named Serenity return US astronauts to space from American soil in the not-so-distant future.
We are happy to announce that Take Back the Sky will be at the PA Browncoats table (booth #409) on the floor at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con this coming weekend, June 1-4 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Our fellow Browncoats Tequila Matt Black and Bob Averell and their crew will be at the con with a petition you can sign asking SpaceX to name the first of their manned Dragon space capsules Serenity. They’ll also have templates for form letters to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and President Gwynne Shotwell as well as special “Leaf on the Wind” sheets that you can mail to them, all to let them know you think naming SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon Serenity is a right shiny idea!
The PA Browncoats won’t just be there to promote Take Back the Sky though. They’ll also be spreading the word about this year’s Browncoat Ball, which will be held in Gettysburg, PA in August, as well as Pennsylvania’s Can’t Stop the Serenity charity events in Philadelphia (June 3 and June 24) and Pittsburgh (July 30). So don’t be shy about approaching them and asking about Take Back the Sky, especially if they’re busy talking up the other Browncoats events at the time. If you do, they’ll be happy to help you do your part to make sure we see a real US spaceship named Serenity. After all, Take Back the Sky originated with the PA Browncoats, and like most Browncoats, they are very shiny folk who are always willing to lend a helping hand.
So if you’re going to Wizard World Philly this weekend, don’t forget to stop by the PA Browncoats table to sign our petition and pick up a form letter and a “Leaf on the Wind” sheet. And while you’re at it, be sure to tell Bob and Tequila Matt we send our regards and thank them and their crew for boosting our signal.
So far, 2017 has been a busy and successful year for SpaceX, and Elon Musk and company look to continue that run of good luck with the launch of another Falcon 9 rocket on Monday evening, May 15. This mission will deliver Inmarsat-5 F4, a commercial communications satellite, to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).
The launch will take place at historic Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with a 49-minute launch window opening at 7:21pm EDT. (A backup launch window opens at 7:21pm EDT on Tuesday, May 16 if necessary.) Due to the specific requirements of this mission, there will be no attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 following this launch.
For those not lucky enough to be able to watch the launch in person, SpaceX’s webcast of the launch will go live approximately 15 minutes before liftoff.
With a launch window beginning at 0700 EST, SpaceX is currently a “GO” to launch their first payload for the United States’ National Reconnaissance Office, hence the imaginatively named satellite “NROL-76.”
Little is known about the payload and its mission… because it’s by a spy agency. Chances are, SpaceX themselves likely don’t know anything much about it, either– like one of those “no questions asked” sort of jobs that the crew of Serenity find themselves needing to take from time to time.
What is known up to this point is that the “warm-up” test firing of the engines on Tuesday was a success:
Security clearance zones designated around the launch site suggest the payload will be placed into a high-inclination orbit. Of more interest to those of us watching from the ground– a landing of the first stage will be attempted less than ten minutes after liftoff at Cape Canaveral. For those keeping score, this will be only the third time they’ve tried this feat on land (with both of the prior times being successful).
Join us on Sunday morning to watch the live stream, which should begin approximately 20-30 minutes before liftoff.
On Thursday evening, March 30, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 into the black for the second time in less than a month. This launch, SpaceX’s fourth so far this year, will be to deploy the SES-10 satellite, which is designed to facilitate video broadcasts and internet connectivity to Latin America and the Caribbean.
It’s a good bet that this mission will attract more attention because of the booster than it will for its payload though. That’s because this will be the first time that SpaceX carries out a mission using a Falcon 9 that has already been launched and recovered as part of a previous mission. If everything goes according to (the gorram) plan, SpaceX will prove without a doubt that we have entered the age of rockets that can be launched, recovered and relaunched effectively and affordably. If we are to have any hope of becoming a multi-planet species, or even one that lives and works out in the black, that is a milestone that must be achieved, and Elon Musk and his crew are poised to make that happen sooner rather than later.
SES-10 will launch from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center at 6pm EDT on Thursday, March 30. (There is a backup window on Friday, March 31 if necessary, but the weather actually looks more favorable for a Thursday launch at this point.) Following the launch, the Falcon 9 rocket’s reusable (and newly reused!) first stage will attempt a (second!) controlled landing on the autonomous drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean.
Coverage of the mission should be live on SpaceX’s YouTube channel approximately twenty minutes before liftoff.
If everything goes according to plan, a SpaceX Falcon 9 will break atmo for the third time this year in the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 14.
This Falcon will be carrying a commercial communications satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) for EchoStar Corporation. According to SpaceX’s mission press kit, the satellite, called EchoStar XXIII, is a highly flexible, Ku-band broadcast satellite services (BSS) satellite with four main reflectors and multiple sub-reflectors that will support multiple mission profiles.
There is a two-and-a-half-hour launch window for this mission, which opens Tuesday morning at 1:34am EDT. The satellite will be deployed approximately 34 minutes after launch. This will be SpaceX’s second launch from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center. There will be no attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage after launch because the specific requirements of this mission make landing the booster prohibitive.
One interesting aspect of this mission is that it will likely be the last SpaceX launch that has an Air Force officer ready at the console as part of a traditional flight termination system. SpaceX’s launch on February 19 marked the first time that responsibility for commanding the rocket to self-destruct lay with computers on board the Falcon instead of a human being monitoring the flight from the Mission Flight Control Officer’s console at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX is the first and only US launch company approved to use the Automated Flight Safety System, or AFSS, which continually records the rocket’s position and trajectory and commands the rocket to self-destruct if it repeatedly crosses pre-programmed boundary lines or violates flight rules. With the successful use of the system during the February 19 launch as well as thirteen previous tests in “shadow mode,” there is a high probability that SpaceX will use the AFSS, which is capable of responding faster than a human being could in the event that a flight needs to be terminated, for all future Falcon launches. (The system has yet to be approved by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program for planned launches of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, one of which we hope they’ll name after Serenity.)
For those who feel sufficiently recovered from Daylight Saving Time to stay up for it, SpaceX’s launch webcast will go live about 20 minutes before liftoff.
If necessary, a backup launch window opens on Thursday, March 16, at 1:35am EDT.