In the early hours of Sunday, the 22nd of July, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will launch the Telstar 19 Vantage (or 19V) high-bandwidth satellite aboard the Falcon 9 rocket between the hours of 0150-0550, EST. Continue Reading
(Update: Shortly after this review was originally posted we received an email from Insight Editions with a message from the book’s editor regarding the issue of Mal’s and Zoe’s rank in the Independent Army. Here’s the explanation we received:
“In most of the flashback sequences and supplementary material, we know that Mal and Zoe were officially ranked as Sergeant and Corporal respectively during the Unification War. According to the movie, Serenity, however, Mal’s rank is listed as “Captain, Independent Army” (as seen on the Alliance files shown on the Operative’s screen at 36:38.) The “Criminal Record” on Page 9 directly reflects the Alliance’s files on Mal as shown on-screen.
From what I could piece together, this discrepancy in title was likely due to an unofficial battlefield promotion earned in the thick of it all during the Battle of Serenity Valley, when many of Mal’s superior officers were killed and he had to rise through the ranks and take command of around 2,000 troops. The promotion was one that would never be officially reflected in the Independent Army records (obviously, due to their surrender), but was just official enough to be noted in the Alliance records upon Mal’s post-battle processing. Of course, the fact that the soldiers in the pilot episode of Firefly (“Serenity”) still call Mal “Sergeant” during the Battle of Serenity Valley could also mean that Mal lied to the Alliance about his rank when captured… or that the Alliance later assumed that he was a Captain in the Independent Army based on the fact that he was widely known to be a Captain (of Serenity) after the war. Either way, the choice was made to reflect the on-screen Alliance files accurately in his “Criminal Record” section in this book.
As for Zoe’s rank, all my records seem to show her as Corporal, as reflected in her official Independent Army records on Page 21. So when she states on Page 20 that she was a lieutenant, well, I’m frankly not sure how or why that happened. I would love to say that she received a similar unofficial promotion as Mal in those final battles… but the truth is, as far as I can tell, it seems to have just been an unfortunate error that didn’t get caught along the way. My sincere apologies for the confusion.”
In recent months we’ve seen a number of new Firefly and Serenity products hit the market as 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios have expanded the amount of officially licensed merchandise that is available to fans. One of the benefits has been that there is a new wave of books that are scheduled to hit the shelves featuring brand new stories about our favorite Firefly-class transport ship and its crew. In February it was announced that Titan Books would publish a new series of original Firefly novels that will debut this October, but Browncoats won’t have to wait that long to delve into a book that takes a fresh look at Serenity and her crew.
This week Insight Editions will release Marc Sumerak’s The Serenity Handbook: The Official Crew Member’s Guide to the Firefly-Class Series 3 Ship. I recently had the opportunity to preview this impressive book, which reads like a manual that is a clever mixture of technical blueprints and crew members’ first-hand descriptions of Serenity’s features.
“Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again”
Those words are from Peter Allen’s 1974 song “Everything Old is New Again,” but in a lot of ways, they’re describing how SpaceX is approaching the way it does business today.
Let’s not be misunderstood. SpaceX is employing a lot of new technology and a lot of innovative techniques that are revolutionizing the space industry. But one of those new techniques is the reuse of the boosters and vehicles that contain its new technology, and that concept– using old rockets and spaceships for new missions– is something that is rather innovative in and of itself. Admittedly, even that isn’t a completely new idea– NASA’s Space Shuttle program relied on the same concept to a certain extent– but SpaceX is taking it to new heights.
When SpaceX launches its fifteenth commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station at 5:41am EDT (9:41 UTC) on June 29, there will be a lot about CRS-15, from its Falcon 9 booster to its Dragon capsule and even the launch complex itself, that will feature something old that’s been given new purpose. The Falcon 9 that will launch CRS-15 into the black was previously flown during the TESS mission two months ago. The Dragon capsule that it will carry was used during SpaceX’s ninth resupply mission to the ISS back in 2016. And Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the place from which the mission will liftoff, has a storied history that goes all the way back to the Titan launches in the 1960’s. Continue Reading
It’s a pretty safe bet SpaceX will launch the first rocket of the month of June.
A Falcon 9 will head out to the black in the early morning hours of June 1 to deliver the SES-12 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). Liftoff is scheduled for 12:29am EDT (4:29 UTC) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SES-12 is designed to improve communication and connectivity in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions.
The Falcon 9 booster for this mission is flight-proven, having previously flown the OTV-5 mission that carried the Air Force’s top secret mini-shuttle, the X-37B, into orbit. There are no plans for the first stage of the Falcon 9 to land during this mission, however SpaceX does plan to retrieve the fairings from the ocean as they have on several of their more recent missions. (GO Pursuit, SpaceX’s Atlantic “fairing hunter” boat, was observed heading out to sea May 29.)
Current forecasts show that the weather is only 40% favorable for the primary launch date, though it increases to 60% favorable 24 hours later for the backup launch date.
Peace, love and rockets…
SpaceX will make it a double when it launches its next Falcon 9 into the black from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg AFB in California on Tuesday, May 22. The “Block 4” Falcon 9, which flew previously for that top-secret ZUMA mission back in November, will carry two satellite payloads into Low Earth Polar Orbit– Iridium-6 and GRACE-FO.
The instantaneous launch window will open at 3:47 EST (19:47 UTC). The GRACE-FO satellites will deploy early in the mission (less than twelve minutes after liftoff). The five Iridium NEXT satellites will deploy roughly an hour into the mission.
As the name suggests, Iridium-6 will be the sixth mission SpaceX has flown for Iridium as it replaces and upgrades the world’s largest commercial satellite network. At the conclusion of this mission, SpaceX will have just two missions remaining for Iridium, after which it will have delivered a total of 75 new satellites into orbit– 66 operational satellites and nine on-orbit spares. The ongoing Iridium NEXT mission is one of the largest “tech upgrades” in space history.
Meanwhile, the NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) GRACE Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission is intended to continue GRACE’s 15-year legacy of tracking the movement of Earth’s mass. These twin satellites will allow the distribution of Earth’s mass to be mapped monthly and tracked over larger periods of time. This will, in turn, provide valuable data about climate change, including changes in ice sheets and glaciers, water levels in large lakes and rivers as well as sea level, and various water and energy cycles.
Since the Falcon 9 being used for this mission is a “Block 4” model, it is unlikely that there will be a landing of the rocket’s first stage. SpaceX will attempt to capture the fairings, however, and Mr. Steven, the company’s “spider-boat” that was designed especially for that purpose, is already at sea.
Peace, love and rockets…
On May 10, SpaceX is scheduled to launch the Bangabandhu-1 satellite to geostationary transfer orbit from Launch Complex 39-A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Bangabandhu-1 will be Bangladesh’s first geostationary communications satellite. Its name means “friend of Bengal,” and it is named in honor of the founding father of the nation of Bangladesh. It is designed to provide communications services to Bangladesh and surrounding countries for at least the next 15 years.
The Falcon 9 that will carry Bangabandhu-1 into the black is scheduled to liftoff at 16:12 EST (20:12 UTC) on Thursday. The mission will also feature a landing of the Falcon 9’s first stage at sea aboard the SpaceX drone barge Of Course I Still Love You.
The highlight of the mission, however, will be the debut of the new “Block 5” variant of the Falcon 9. The Block 5 features a number of design upgrades that are intended to improve the rocket’s efficiency and safety, while allowing SpaceX to refly each first stage booster as many as ten times or more. (None of the previous Falcon 9 boosters have broken atmo more than twice.)
SpaceX has indicated that the Block 5 will be the final variant of their workhorse Falcon 9. The company will now concentrate on the development of its BFR, or “Big Falcon Rocket,” as well as the production of the Falcon Heavy (the rocket that we hope will soon carry US astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a Crew Dragon named Serenity), while its Block 5 fleet of Falcon 9 rockets handles SpaceX’s ambitious manifest of scheduled commercial satellite launches.
Those who want to see the new Falcon 9 Block 5 in action can watch Thursday’s launch online. As is usually the case, SpaceX’s live coverage of the launch will begin on spacex.com and the company’s YouTube channel approximately 20 minutes prior to liftoff.
Peace, love and rockets…