If everything goes according to plan, a SpaceX Falcon 9 will break atmo for the third time this year in the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 14.
This Falcon will be carrying a commercial communications satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) for EchoStar Corporation. According to SpaceX’s mission press kit, the satellite, called EchoStar XXIII, is a highly flexible, Ku-band broadcast satellite services (BSS) satellite with four main reflectors and multiple sub-reflectors that will support multiple mission profiles.
There is a two-and-a-half-hour launch window for this mission, which opens Tuesday morning at 1:34am EDT. The satellite will be deployed approximately 34 minutes after launch. This will be SpaceX’s second launch from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center. There will be no attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage after launch because the specific requirements of this mission make landing the booster prohibitive.
One interesting aspect of this mission is that it will likely be the last SpaceX launch that has an Air Force officer ready at the console as part of a traditional flight termination system. SpaceX’s launch on February 19 marked the first time that responsibility for commanding the rocket to self-destruct lay with computers on board the Falcon instead of a human being monitoring the flight from the Mission Flight Control Officer’s console at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX is the first and only US launch company approved to use the Automated Flight Safety System, or AFSS, which continually records the rocket’s position and trajectory and commands the rocket to self-destruct if it repeatedly crosses pre-programmed boundary lines or violates flight rules. With the successful use of the system during the February 19 launch as well as thirteen previous tests in “shadow mode,” there is a high probability that SpaceX will use the AFSS, which is capable of responding faster than a human being could in the event that a flight needs to be terminated, for all future Falcon launches. (The system has yet to be approved by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program for planned launches of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, one of which we hope they’ll name after Serenity.)
For those who feel sufficiently recovered from Daylight Saving Time to stay up for it, SpaceX’s launch webcast will go live about 20 minutes before liftoff.
If necessary, a backup launch window opens on Thursday, March 16, at 1:35am EDT.
For the second consecutive year, Take Back the Sky will be presenting a panel at Wizard World Pittsburgh Comic Con. This year’s panel, Still Flyin’: Browncoats in Space, will examine the historical relationship between science-fiction and the space industry as well as recent developments and achievements in commercial spaceflight, with a special emphasis on SpaceX and its involvement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Take Back the Sky co-founder and Pittsburgh native Chris Tobias will present the panel, which will take place on Friday, November 4 from 6:30-7:15pm in Room 401 of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh, PA.
If you’re going to be at the con on Friday and have an interest in Firefly, SpaceX or just commercial spaceflight in general, stop by and hear what we have to say. We’ll have updates on our latest activities for those who want to see SpaceX name its first manned Dragon Serenity, as well as some ideas and resources that will make it easier for Browncoats to join our cause.
We hope to see you one week from today at Wizard World Pittsburgh!
With my friend Liz (who is a science teacher in real life) in the lobby of the Hollywood Theater at “a Steel City Celebration of Star Trek.”
(Note: This blog post was originally supposed to appear last month, but due to technical difficulties that were beyond our control, it couldn’t be salvaged until now. We hope you accept our apologies, and that you still find this updated version of the article relevant. — Chris)
Fifty years ago, Star Trek debuted on television screens across the United States. On September 9, I attended a special screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and For the Love of Spock at Pittsburgh’s historic Hollywood Theater (the very same theater that is featured prominently in the Rocky Horror scenes in the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower) in honor of that anniversary. The event was an opportunity for me to return to my sci-fi roots, because while there are few Browncoats whose coats are more of a brownish color than mine, I was a Trekkie long before Joss Whedon read a book about the Battle of Gettysburg and was inspired to create a space-western TV series called Firefly. So, when it was announced that geekpittsburgh.com was sponsoring “a Steel City Celebration of Star Trek” for the benefit of the Hollywood Theater and Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum (two organizations that have hosted Pittsburgh’s “Can’t Stop the Serenity” screenings in recent years), I was content to leave my browncoat in the closet for one evening in favor of the command gold of a Starfleet uniform (once a cap’n, always a cap’n) and boldly go where I had always so enthusiastically gone before.
The Dragon V2 is ready for its pad abort test. (Photo: SpaceX)
SpaceX recently completed its second successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket in less than two weeks, a record turnaround time for the company. The first of those launches sent an umanned Dragon to the International Space Station. It’s still berthed there, and will return to Earth later this month.
But while that unmanned Dragon remains in Low Earth Orbit at the ISS, SpaceX is about to take a major step in the development of their manned Dragon capsule, the very same one that we hope will one day be named Serenity.
On the morning of Wednesday, May 6 at approximately 7am, SpaceX plans to conduct a “pad abort” test of its Dragon V2, the manned version of the Dragon that will carry astronauts to the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 will simulate a launch pad emergency. The Dragon will be shot into the air from the launch pad, and will deploy its parachutes and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean. In the process, the Dragon will also employ its “SuperDraco” thrusters, which are designed to aid the capsule and its crew in escaping from a rocket on the pad or in flight if things get “interesting” in Hoban “Wash” Washburne’s definition of the word.
Following this test, the next step will be this summer, when SpaceX will conduct an “in-flight abort” test, launched from California. In that test the Dragon will attempt to escape from a Falcon 9 rocket after its launch.