For the past seven years we here at Take Back the Sky have been focusing our efforts to get a real-life manned spaceship named Serenity on SpaceX and its founder and CEO, Elon Musk. If you want to understand why we chose SpaceX and not Virgin Galactic, Boeing, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, or any other private company that’s in the business of building and launching spaceships, you need look no further than the upcoming Starlink-1 mission. While SpaceX has been in the business of making history (and making spaceflight sexy again) for some time now, this latest mission has several features that just exude the daring, independent spirit that we Browncoats value so highly.
Starlink-1 Mission Patch (courtesy SpaceX Now)
First of all, the mission’s very purpose is something any Browncoat would admire. With Starlink, SpaceX hopes to establish a mega-constellation of 12,000 satellites that will provide high-speed internet across the entire planet. The endeavor will cost Elon Musk and company roughly $10 billion, and it is expected to take approximately 10 years. When it’s finished, however, anyone will be able to have high-speed internet access anywhere on the globe, and the best connections will no longer be reserved for those who are in the most populated areas or have the finances to afford the equipment necessary to establish a good connection out on the raggedy edge. SpaceX plans to have half the constellation in orbit by 2024, with the full constellation out in the black by 2028.
The Starlink-1 launch, which is planned NET 10:30PM EDT on May 15 (02:30 GMT May 16) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, will be the sixth SpaceX launch of 2019 and the fifth for a Falcon 9. It will also be the 70th Falcon 9 launch since 2010. Its payload will be no less than 60 satellites that will be inserted into Low Earth Orbit. SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell has stated publicly that this first batch of 60 satellites will drive the schedule for the next set of spacecraft to be launched, depending on how successful they are.
There’s more to the Browncoat nature of this mission than its everyman payload, however. The logistics of the mission also reflect the attitude of a company that aims to misbehave. Not only will the mission utilize a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage, but for the first time, the satellites will also be launched within a previously-flown payload fairing. The Falcon 9 first stage being used is core B1049, which was previously utilized for the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019 as well as the Telstar 18V mission in September 2018. (It will be recovered yet again aboard SpaceX’s Atlantic droneship Of Course I Still Love You during this mission.) The payload fairing for the mission is expected to be the one that SpaceX successfully recovered from the Atlantic Ocean following the most recent Falcon Heavy mission.
CRS-17 Mission Patch (Courtesy: Wikipedia)
SpaceX planned to launch its 17th resupply mission to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 1, but now the launch will have to wait until NET Friday, May 3 so that NASA can troubleshoot a problem with an electrical distribution unit on the International Space Station.
When the mission does finally break atmo, a previously unflown Block 5 Falcon 9 will insert Dragon into Low Earth Orbit, where it will rendezvous with the ISS and deliver over 5,500 pounds of supplies, experiments and equipment to the astronauts of Expedition 59 aboard the space station.
The logistics of this particular mission certainly have been fluid. The first stage of the booster was originally scheduled to land at Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but the Falcon 9 will now land at sea aboard the SpaceX drone ship Of Course I Still Love You due to the ongoing investigation at LZ-1 into the anomaly that occurred there during a Crew Dragon abort system test on April 20. During that incident, which occurred as SpaceX was testing the Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco abort engines, the capsule that made Crew Dragon’s first demonstration flight (DM-1) to the ISS on March 2 of this year was lost.
Yes, this is the very same Crew Dragon that we here at Take Back the Sky want Elon Musk to name after the transport ship Serenity from Joss Whedon’s cult sci-fi TV series Firefly, and of course we still hope to convince SpaceX to christen a future Crew Dragon with that name.
But in the meantime, the OG Dragon is now scheduled to lift off NET 3:11 AM EST (7:11 GMT) on May 3. The current forecast shows the weather as being 60% go for launch. For those night owls who want to watch it live, SpaceX’s webcast of the CRS-17 launch should go live approximately 20 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…
When Falcon Heavy made its debut launch back in February of 2018, it was primarily what the US Navy would have called a “shakedown cruise.” The mission for the launch was just to prove that SpaceX had a powerful horse that could really run, and the rocket passed the test in style, sending Elon Musk’s own Tesla Roadster into the black with a dummy nicknamed “Starman” at the wheel and executing a perfectly synchronized dual booster landing that could only be described as unforgettable.
But this week Falcon Heavy really goes to work, with a launch from Space Launch Complex 39A (SLC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida that will send the Arabsat-6A satellite into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). The Arabsat-6A is a Saudi Arabian communications satellite built by Lockheed Martin. It is designed to provide television, internet and phone services to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
According to SpaceX: “Falcon Heavy’s 27 Merlin engines generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, making it the world’s most powerful operational rocket by a factor of two.” In the background is the Falcon 9 booster that launched Crew Dragon to the ISS in March. (Photo and data courtesy SpaceX via Twitter)
Apparently SpaceX also has a triple landing planned for this mission, with boosters landing at both LZ-1 and LZ-2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as well as on SpaceX’s Atlantic droneship Of Course I Still Love You.
Liftoff is scheduled for NET Tuesday, April 9 at 6:36 p.m. EDT (22:36 GMT). Those who want to see the massive rocket break atmo (and watch as SpaceX turns a booster landing triple play) can tune in to SpaceX’s live webcast at spacex.com or the company’s YouTube channel. Coverage will begin approximately 20 minutes before launch.
Peace, love and rockets…
When SpaceX launches the Nusantara Satu (PSN-6) mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this Thursday, it will mark the first East Coast launch of a Falcon 9 this year.
That’s because the Crew Dragon (yes, that same ship we want Elon Musk and company to name Serenity after Joss Whedon’s fictional Firefly-class transport ship) was supposed to have launched from the Space Coast back in mid-January for its unmanned demo flight (DM-1). That mission has now slipped to March 2 though, so in the meantime SpaceX will send the Indonesian communications satellite Nusantara Satu (PSN-6) into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit on February 21, after which the first stage of the Falcon 9 will land aboard the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.
“Fly me to the Moon:” Israel’s Beresheet lunar lander (photo courtesy UPI)
Of particular interest is the secondary payload on this mission– the Beresheet lunar lander, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and a nonprofit company called SpaceIL. Once deployed, this privately-funded lander will embark on Israel’s first lunar mission. If it is successful, Israel will join the US, Russia and China in the very exclusive club of nations that have landed spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. The lander will carry a payload that includes the prayer of “Tefilat Haderech,” the Bible, an Israeli flag, the Israeli national anthem, pictures drawn by children and a photo honoring Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard Space Shuttle Columbia in 2006.
Liftoff of the Nusantara Satu (PSN-6) mission is scheduled for 8:45PM EST (1:45 UTC) on February 21. Those who want to watch the launch live (and night launches surely are a sight to behold) can tune in to SpaceX’s webcast approximately 20 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…
SVO1 Mission Patch (Courtesy NASA Spaceflight.com)
Tuesday’s launch of a Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will carry the GPS III SVO1 satellite into orbit for the United States Air Force. Once deployed, the satellite will join existing global positioning systems (GPS) to assist in providing navigation, positioning and timing services for the United States. This particular satellite, which was built by Lockheed Martin, is nicknamed “Vespucci” after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer from whose name the word “America” is derived.
SpaceX will also have a special guest on hand for its first national security mission, as US Vice-President Mike Pence will be in attendance to view the launch. The Vice-President called SpaceX’s launch of GPS III SVO1 “… an important step forward as we seek to secure American leadership in space.”
SpaceX will use a brand new Falcon 9 for this mission, and will not attempt to land the first stage after launch. Liftoff is scheduled for NET December 18 at 9:10AM EST (14:10 UTC). Weather conditions are currently 90% favorable.
Those who wish to view the launch can watch live at spacex.com and on SpaceX’s YouTube channel. The webcast will commence approximately 20 minutes before liftoff, but since this is a national security launch we may not be able to watch the mission in its entirety.
Peace, love and rockets…
If we didn’t know better, we’d think SpaceX is celebrating Hanukkah in grand style. After all, it seems like they’re lighting a very big candle every day now!
With today’s launch of the SSO-A SmallSat Express, which was originally scheduled to launch from Vandenberg AFB in California on November 19, SpaceX is now on the verge of back-to-back launches on two consecutive days from two opposite coasts. That’s because the 16th resupply mission to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Services contract that SpaceX has with NASA is scheduled to lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, December 4 at 1:38 PM EST (18:38 UTC).
The CRS-16 Mission Patch (courtesy Wikipedia)
At this time the weather appears to be favorable for the mission, which will have an instantaneous launch window. The Falcon 9 booster that will be used for this mission is a brand new Block 5 rocket. Its first stage will land at Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral.
The Falcon 9 will carry a Dragon spacecraft loaded with 5,673 lbs. (2,573 kg) of supplies, scientific research equipment, experimental hardware and scientific investigations (a.k.a. experiments) that will aid the crews of Expeditions 57 and 58 in their work aboard the ISS. The timing of the launch is especially interesting since the Expedition 58 crew also launched earlier today aboard a Soyuz rocket. If all goes well, they will be aboard the ISS in time to assist the crew of Expedition 57 with the capture and unloading of the Dragon when it arrives at the station on December 6. Operating the Canadarm2 to grapple the Dragon and guide it to the station will be Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of Germany, who will surely feel like he’s receiving the biggest St. Nikolaus’ Day gift ever!
The Dragon is expected to remain berthed at the ISS for approximately five weeks. After the crew unpacks its current cargo and loads it full of completed experiments and other materials that are to be sent back to Earth, it will undock (if everything remains on schedule) on January 13, 2019, at which time it will return to Earth and splash down for recovery in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja, California.
Those who want to watch the CRS-16 launch live can log onto SpaceX’s webcast, which should begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…
SpaceX’s next launch is slated for Thursday, November 15 at 3:46 PM EST from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, when a Falcon 9 will send the Es’hail-2 communications satellite into geostationary orbit.
Es’hail-2 will boost ham radio signals worldwide. (image: amsat-uk.org)
According to the Kennedy Space Center website, the satellite is designed to assist with broadband connectivity and broadcast capability for Qatar and its neighbors, but it will also boost the signal of ham radio operators from Brazil to Thailand. The satellite is owned by Qatar’s national satellite communications company, Es’hailSat, but was built in Japan by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation.
Thursday’s launch, SpaceX’s 18th of the year, will be the 63rd flight of a Falcon 9 rocket to date. The Falcon 9 that will launch Es’hail-2 is a previously-flown booster that was last used for the July 22 launch of the Telstar 19 VANTAGE communications satellite.
SpaceX is expected to attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 aboard the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You a few hundred miles off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Es’hail-2 mission will also be the first time in several months that SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 during the day, so those on the East Coast who want to view the launch won’t have to stay up late to do it this time around. A live webcast of the launch should begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…