Ni-hao, y’all — Jeff here, Rocket-Scientist-in-Residence here at Take Back the Sky. I’ve been offline for some time now tending to a newly arrived future Browncoat. Last week, NASA finally announced the assignments of which astronauts will be assigned to which flights aboard which independently made American spacecraft. I’m rather surprised that no one is commenting on what’s right there in the open for everyone to see, so I thought I’d offer my two cents here. Continue Reading
It’s been a busy summer for SpaceX, and this month will be no exception. One might say the beginning of August will have its ups and downs for Elon Musk and company– quite literally– with the CRS-15 mission drawing to a close and the launch of yet another satellite.
SpaceX’s Dragon will return to Earth this weekend after spending more than a month berthed at the International Space Station, signaling the end of the CRS-15 mission. The capsule is scheduled for splashdown south of the Port of Los Angeles on Friday, August 3. Should an alternative landing date be deemed necessary, Dragon’s return could be postponed until Sunday, August 5, with splashdown occuring in the same general area. Once recovered, Dragon will be brought back to the Port of Los Angeles for the unloading of any time-sensitive cargo. The remainder of Dragon’s cargo will be unloaded once the capsule has arrived at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
And on Tuesday, August 7, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Falcon will be carrying the Merah Putih (Telkom-4) communications satellite, which will provide coverage to Indonesia and India. Liftoff is scheduled for 1:19am, EDT (5:19 UTC). The Falcon 9 that will be used for this upcoming mission previously flew for the Bangabandhu-1 mission. The Merah Putih satellite will be placed in a Geostationary Transfer Orbit, and the Falcon 9’s first stage will be recovered once again, with a landing planned in the Atlantic Ocean on SpaceX’s drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.
Peace, love and rockets…
Elon Musk and company are ready to send another Falcon 9 into the black this Wednesday, just days after SpaceX successfully completed the Telstar 19 mission. This time the action will be on the West Coast.
On July 25, a Falcon 9 of the new Block 5 variant will launch from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission is Iridium-7, the latest in a series of what is expected to be a total of eight missions to put 75 Iridium NEXT satellites in orbit. Once completed, the mission will bring the number of deployed satellites to 65. Liftoff is scheduled for 7:39 am EDT (11:39 UTC).
The Iridium-7 mission will insert a constellation of 10 new satellites into Low Earth Orbit as part of Iridium Communications ongoing effort to overhaul its communications fleet. The first stage of this particular Block 5 Falcon 9, which is making its maiden flight, will land on SpaceX’s drone recovery ship Just Read the Instructions in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will mark SpaceX’s 14th flight of this calendar year.
Peace, love and rockets…
“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…