by Chris Tobias
After an impressive slate of achievements and historic firsts in 2017, SpaceX will kick off the new year with the launch of its still top-secret Zuma mission on January 5, 2018. The clandestine government payload, which was to have launched on board a Falcon 9 November 15 of last year, was delayed due to a payload fairing issue. That issue now appears to have been resolved, and a Falcon 9 is scheduled to take Zuma into the black this Friday, with a two-hour launch window opening at 8:00 PM EST. At this time the weather is 90% GO for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) in Florida.
Not much more has been revealed about this mission or its payload since we first previewed it back in November of 2017. While it may seem unusual for anything that an Elon Musk-owned company does to have so little fanfare, it’s doubtful that we’ll have to get used to it.
SpaceX is set to have a spectacular 2018, starting with the planned maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy, which could happen as early as late January. The Falcon Heavy already caused quite a stir on social media when it briefly went vertical for fit checks at LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center at the end of last month, and Musk’s claim that its first payload would be his own Tesla Roadster has only added to the hype surrounding what will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world. We’ll be discussing the Falcon Heavy and its inaugural launch in more detail in the near future.
But the SpaceX milestone that we’re most anticipating in 2018 is the launch of the very first Crew Dragon, which will finally take US astronauts back out to the black from American soil for the first time in seven years. That launch should happen sometime late this summer or early in the fall, and when it does, we hope that the capsule will be named Serenity, after the Firefly-class transport ship in Joss Whedon’s TV series Firefly and its follow-up motion picture Serenity.
2018 marks our sixth year of lobbying SpaceX to name its first Crew Dragon Serenity, and if you’re a Browncoat (or if you just agree that it would be a good name), you can still help us bring our efforts to fruition. All you really need to do is write a brief letter to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, along with company president Gwynne Shotwell, urging them to christen SpaceX’s first manned spaceship with that name.
In the meantime, you should be able to watch a live webcast of the Zuma launch at spacex.com and on SpaceX’s YouTube channel on January 5. Coverage should begin approximately 20-30 minutes before liftoff.
On behalf of everyone here at Take Back the Sky, may your New Year be filled with peace, happiness, prosperity, and of course Serenity!
Peace, love and rockets…