NASA has scheduled the first crewed launch of SpaceX’s independently designed and developed Dragon spacecraft for 4:32 p.m. EDT (2032 GMT) on May 27, 2020 (barring unforeseen delays, such as a high probability of adverse weather). Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first American astronauts to go into space aboard an American-made ship since the former Space Shuttle program. Continue Reading
SpaceX will launch its next batch of 60 Starlink satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket NET 3:16 PM EST (19:16 UTC) Thursday, April 23 from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Starlink is SpaceX’s constellation of satellites that are designed to provide broadband internet access across the globe. This month’s launch will push the size of SpaceX’s Starlink fleet to just over 300 satellites, though not all of them will be operational when the broadband network goes online.
The Falcon 9 booster for this mission completed its static fire on April 17, nearly a full week before its scheduled launch. It is a bit unusual for SpaceX to conduct such an early static fire, which has led some to speculate that it might be related to the fact that the Falcon 9 used for the company’s most recent mission on March 18 suffered an engine failure that ultimately resulted in a second consecutive unsuccessful attempt at landing and recovering the first stage booster (though the mission itself was successful). The booster that was lost last month had just been launched for the fifth time, more than any other Falcon 9.
The rocket that will be used for this upcoming mission will be making its fourth flight, having previously launched in support of Crew Dragon’s first flight to the space station as well as the RADARSAT Constellation mission and the fourth Starlink mission. A problem-free launch and recovery would ease any troubled minds in advance of the launch of the crewed Demonstration Mission of Crew Dragon (DM-2), which is scheduled to occur late next month.
If there are those who are concerned, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine doesn’t seem to be among them. He has already stated that Falcon 9’s engine anomaly on March 18 is “… not going to impact our Commercial Crew launch.”
Despite Bridenstine’s assurances, SpaceX may be feeling a bit more pressure to prove the reliability of the Falcon 9’s Merlin engines given that the rocket is scheduled to send two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, out to the black on a test mission to help prove that Crew Dragon’s systems meet NASA’s requirements for certification to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and back. The mission will launch NET May 27 from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center, and will mark the first time since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 that American astronauts will launch from American soil.
It is our hope that when it does finally launch, that first Crew Dragon will be named Serenity, after the Firefly-class transport ship from Joss Whedon’s sci-fi television series Firefly and follow-up motion picture Serenity. For nearly eight years now, we at Take Back the Sky have been trying to convince SpaceX to christen the spaceship with that name, and if you’d like to take action to help us, there’s still time (though admittedly not much) to write to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and president and COO Gwynne Shotwell to ask them to consider the name.
During this upcoming mission, SpaceX plans to recover the Falcon 9’s first stage for a fourth time in the Atlantic Ocean aboard its drone ship Of Course I Still Love You. The fairing for the mission is also a veteran of a previous launch, having been flown for the AMOS-17 mission in August 2019. SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessels, GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief, will attempt to recover the fairing yet again during this mission.
Peace, love and rockets…
If you spend any time at all online, you’ve probably seen speculation every so often about a possible return of Joss Whedon’s space western Firefly, the Fox series that was cancelled in 2002 after only 11 of its 14 episodes had aired– mostly out of order and with gaps in its weekly broadcasts due to Major League Baseball playoffs and holiday programming.
And why not? The series only grew in popularity after its cancellation. Its devoted fan base, who came to be known as “Browncoats” (taking their name from the Independent forces in the series who fought for their freedom against the corporate super-government known as the Alliance), spurred brisk sales of the series’ DVD box set, and Universal Studios greenlit a major motion picture, Serenity, that was helmed by Whedon himself and reunited the series’ original cast to tie up most of the show’s loose ends.
Serenity debuted in theaters in August of 2005, and although there was never a sequel, both the movie and the TV series that inspired it have spawned a number of additional stories set in the Firefly ‘verse. There have been several comics series published by Dark Horse Comics and Boom! Studios that follow the exploits of the crew of Serenity, and publishers like Insight Editions and Titan Books have published numerous volumes covering every detail of the Firefly ‘verse, from handbooks and episode companions to prose novels and cookbooks. It also seems as though Firefly- and Serenity-licensed merchandise is at an all-time high. A quick online search will reveal clothing, board games, prop replicas, action figures and much more.
It’s obvious that the love of Browncoats the world over has kept Serenity relevant for nearly twenty years, so with reboots and revivals being all the rage in Hollywood these days, you’d think it would only be a matter of time until the executives at 21st Century Fox (now owned by the Walt Disney Company) decide to send Malcolm Reynolds and his crew back to the black. I’m sure if that happened, there’d be more than a few Browncoats that would be all manner of glad to see it.
I just wouldn’t be one of them.
I know what you’re thinking: “How could you say that, Chris? You’re a hardcore fan. There aren’t many folk out there whose coats have a more brownish color than yours. You’ve even spent the past seven years spearheading a movement to convince Elon Musk’s company SpaceX to name its first Crew Dragon after Serenity. Why wouldn’t you want to see Firefly on the screen again?”
Well, read on and I’ll explain.
After years of iterating designs on the drawing board, hard work on the factory floor, and combating the naysayers and haters, the Crew Dragon, the first private orbital spacecraft (Virgin Galactic’s bird is a suborbital craft, and yes, the Orion also had an unmanned test flight as the first government-commissioned craft since the space shuttle) will launch from Kennedy Space Center in the United States in the early morning hours of Saturday, the 2nd of March. Continue Reading
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
Okay, I’m going to admit something that might cause some folk to insist that I should resign my commission as a bona fide geek– I still haven’t seen Star Wars Episode VII: the Force Awakens. Now, before you start questioning my “geekhood,” I’m going to make it clear that I have plans to take my family to see it this Sunday after the Christmas shindigs have all come and gone. So far though it just hasn’t been possible, what with all the holiday preparations, work and my son’s various athletic events. But believe me when I say it hasn’t been for lack of interest.
My friends have all been very kind in that they’ve been extra careful not to spoil anything for me. Okay, maybe it’s because I threatened to visit violence upon anyone who so much as uttered a spoiler from very early on, but whatever the reason, I’ve managed to stay spoiler free. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been getting general assessments of the movie, however. My favorite was the following e-mail, which I got from Take Back the Sky co-founder and fellow blogger Jeff:
HOLY MOTHER OF DUCKLINGS AND ALL HER WACKY NEPHEWS IN A SIXTEEN-PIECE BUCKET YOU NEED TO SEE STAR WARS!
- It’s like the original trilogy, but with good, deep writing.
- It’s Star Wars with good acting and character development.
- It’s Star Wars with dialogue that real people would say in real life.
- It’s Star Wars with relatable human emotions. There’s just so many wonderful, deeply poignant and emotional moments peppered throughout. THE FEELS ARE STRONG WITH THIS ONE.
- It’s no spoiler to say this, but…have you ever tried to get someone to watch Firefly for the first time by saying “It’s better than [popular sci-fi franchise]” half-seriously just to get their attention? I know this sounds equally hard to believe, but I’m dead serious when I say that Kylo Ren… is a more intimidating and downright terrifying villain than Darth Vader, possibly one of the baddest villains of all time.
If you think about it, though, the last sentence of Jeff’s “review” could also apply to SpaceX. No, seriously. This past Monday night we might very well have witnessed the accomplishment with which Elon Musk’s private rocket company effectively saved the American space industry. When the first stage of the Falcon 9 touched down like a downy feather on fire at Cape Canaveral, it didn’t just “wake up” the collective consciousness of the American public to the prospect of future space travel, it made the space industry seem “truly alive” in a way we haven’t felt since the very first launch of Space Shuttle Columbia.