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.
Those who would like to watch the launch can tune in to spacex.com or the company’s YouTube channel. SpaceX’s webcasts typically begin around 20 minutes before liftoff.
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.
NASA’s official CRS-15 mission patch.
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
(UPDATE: This launch was scrubbed on Monday, and is currently targeted for Wednesday, April 18 at 6:51 EDT. At a NASA social event for TESS on April 15, SpaceX Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability Hans Koenigsmann said there is, in fact, a launch opportunity for TESS every day through April 26.)
This Monday, April 16, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch, which is scheduled to lift off at 6:32 pm EDT (22:32 UTC), will feature a brand new Falcon 9 booster rocket that has never flown before. Unlike some of the more recent SpaceX missions, there are plans to recover the first stage of this Falcon 9 at sea aboard SpaceX’s drone ship Of Course I Still Love You. If that recovery is successful, this particular Falcon 9 will be reused for the CRS-15 Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station this summer.
This current mission is generating some buzz because of its payload. SpaceX is sending a NASA satellite into orbit that is known as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS. The satellite is designed to conduct a two-year survey during which it will use an array of telescopes to monitor over 200,000 stars in “neighboring solar systems” (less than 300 light years away) in order to detect and identify planets ranging in size from roughly the size of the Earth to gas giants, with a particular interest in identifying Earth-like exoplanets that could one day (or perhaps once did or even already do) support life.
There is a 30-second launch window for tomorrow’s launch, but there is the possibility of launching on Tuesday if Monday’s launch has to be scrubbed. If SpaceX misses that back-up window, then they’ll have to wait until the moon comes around again. This is because once the satellite is deployed it needs the help of a perfectly-timed gravitational assist from the moon in order to put it into a highly eccentric orbit that will bring it close to Earth approximately once every two weeks. At present, the weather is 80% GO for an April 16 launch, and 90% GO for a Tuesday backup launch if necessary.
For those who’d like to watch the launch, SpaceX’s live webcast of the mission will begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…