SpaceX plans to launch the SAOCOM-1A satellite this weekend from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, with liftoff currently scheduled for 10:21 PM EST (2:21 UTC) on Sunday, October 7 from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E).
This weekend’s launch will feature the same Falcon 9 Block 5 first stage that launched Iridium NEXT 7, and will be just the second time that a Block 5 Falcon 9 core has been reflown. The payload, the SAOCOM-1A satellite, will be delivered to a Sun-Synchronous Orbit, where it will be part of a six-satellite constellation that CONAE (the Argentine space agency) will use to image the Earth in conjunction with the Italian COSMO-SkyMed satellite constellation.
A Falcon 9 first stage comes in for a landing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (Photo: Spaceflight Now)
What makes this launch particularly interesting is that the Falcon 9’s first stage will return to the launch site at Vandenberg AFB to land, which will make it the first RTLS (Return to Launch Site) landing on the West Coast. All of SpaceX’s previous RTLS landings have been conducted at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Falcon 9 first stage that is being reflown for this mission previously landed at sea aboard SpaceX’s drone ship Just Read the Instructions during the Iridium NEXT 7 mission back in July.
A live webcast of the launch should be available at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel approximately 20 minutes before liftoff.
Peace, love and rockets…
In the wake of this weekend’s successful Bangabandhu-1 mission, which featured the successful launch and landing of the new Block 5 Falcon 9, SpaceX is taking a full eight days off between launches. (Let that sink in for a minute. We now have a private space company that’s basically launching once a week… but I digress.) Since we have a little time before we have to discuss the specifics of the next mission, I figured I’d devote some space (yes, the pun is always intended) to a Browncoat-themed post.
Take Back the Sky
is not the only cause to which this Browncoat devotes his time and energy. Since 2013, I have also been the organizer of the annual Can’t Stop the Serenity
(CSTS) charity screenings of Serenity
(and occasionally Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
) for the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a CSTS organizer, I have access to the global CSTS message boards at www.cantstoptheserenity.com
, which really have a plethora of great information in their archives that any hardcore Browncoat would love to read through if he or she had the time. In fact, it was on these very message boards that Jeff first proposed the idea of lobbying SpaceX to name its first Crew Dragon after Serenity.
Since only the organizers or co-organizers (think captains and first mates) of local CSTS events have access to the boards’ archives, I think it’s a shame that a lot of Browncoats will never have the chance to read some of the interesting things that are contained there. So, seeing as how I’m an organizer who has that virtual all-access pass, I decided to share one of them with you.
The following is a chronological list of important dates in the history of Firefly and Serenity, presented in calendar format. It appears almost exactly as it was originally posted on the global CSTS message boards, though I have made a few minor modifications for the sake of clarity and ease of reading.
Courtesy SpaceX Updates via Twitter
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 founder and CEO Elon Musk released this photo of the rollout of the Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9, which will launch on May 10.
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…