“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
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…
(Image: Sending a Wave)
On March 31, the UK Firefly and Serenity podcast Sending a Wave announced that it was coming to an end after twelve years of keeping Browncoats around the world up-to-date on all the latest conjurings in the Firefly fandom throughout the ‘verse. Sending a Wave will always be very special to all of us here at Take Back the Sky, because the podcast was the first media outlet to interview Jeff and me (way back in the 2012) about our efforts to convince Elon Musk and SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon Serenity. Not only did our interview on Sending a Wave spread the news of what we were doing to a worldwide audience, it also gave our campaign a level of legitimacy in the Browncoat community that it hadn’t had previously. This was especially crucial to the success of our first online petition to SpaceX, which ended up with thousands of signatures from every continent except Antarctica, accompanied by comments in multiple languages.
About a year later we had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Scott, co-creator and host of Sending a Wave, in person at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con in June of 2013. At the con that weekend, Wendy interviewed me again about my work as the event coordinator of Pittsburgh’s Can’t Stop the Serenity charity screenings, and together we attended the Firefly panel that featured Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite and Gina Torres. Wendy is a lovely woman who is tremendously knowledgeable about science-fiction and the film industry and an absolutely fascinating person to talk to. One of my favorite things about Wendy, both as a podcast host and as a friend, is that her “BS-meter” is finely-tuned, and she’s not afraid to call anyone out if their story has the odor of a fabrication or a retcon. (If you don’t believe me, you can hear her give me a much-needed history lesson upon our first meeting in Sending a Wave Episode 93: The One with Dragons!)
When I heard about the end of Sending a Wave, I contacted Wendy to ask her if it would be okay if I achieved some closure of sorts by bringing things full circle and interviewing her about what had been great run of a groundbreaking Firefly and Serenity podcast. She graciously agreed, and on April 28 we spent nearly three hours on Skype talking about everything from the podcast itself to geek culture, science-fiction of all kinds, Joss Whedon, CSTS, the current state of the film industry and even American and European politics. As you can guess, that conversation meandered in many different directions. The following is a transcript of questions Wendy answered that were specific to Sending a Wave:
Matt Ryan as John Constantine (Photo: CW Seed)
Back in 2014, one of my favorite characters from DC Comics, John Constantine, was given his own television series on NBC. The series, which was simply called Constantine, starred Welsh actor Matt Ryan in the title role and used many of the classic stories from the original Hellblazer comics that were published by DC’s subsidiary comics imprint Vertigo. Despite strong stories and a very good cast, NBC never quite figured out how to promote Constantine properly, and it was cancelled after just one 13-episode season due to poor ratings in its Friday night time slot, much to the disappointment of a small but loyal fan base.
Does any of this sound familiar?
SpaceX makes history at breakneck speed. In just a few hours, Elon Musk and company will launch their 50th Falcon 9 rocket!
Hispasat 30W-6 mission patch (via spacexnow.com)
Although it’s become the norm for SpaceX to refly its Falcon 9 boosters, it is actually a brand new Falcon 9 that will carry the Hispasat 30W-6 satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). The milestone launch is scheduled for the early morning of Tuesday, March 6 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The two-hour launch window opens at 12:33 am EST, or 5:33 UTC. (If necessary, a two-hour back-up launch window is available at the same times on Wednesday, March 7.) The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, which is designed to provide television, broadband, corporate networks and other telecommunications, will be deployed approximately 33 minutes after launch.
It appears that one of the trickier aspects of SpaceX’s launch-recover-relaunch operations might be the effect that launch delays can have on the ability to recover boosters. This particular launch was scheduled for late February, but was delayed because additional testing was needed on the fairing’s pressurization system. Back in February, the plan was to recover this brand new Falcon 9 booster aboard SpaceX’s drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, and the company had even debuted its brand new “spider boat” Mr. Steven, which has been specially designed to catch fairings. But the SpaceX recovery fleet was called back to port over the weekend, and the official press kit for this mission confirmed that SpaceX will not attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage after launch due to rough seas in the recovery area off Florida’s Atlantic Coast. It’s probably a good bet that SpaceX would have preferred to recover this shiny new booster to fly it another day, but Badger’s assessment of crime and politics in the pilot episode of Firefly applies to the business of launching rockets as well: “The situation is always… fluid.”
Speaking of fluid, if you’re on the East Coast, you might want to put on a pot of coffee if you plan on staying up to see the 50th Falcon 9 break atmo, but for those who want to watch the launch live online, SpaceX’s webcast of the mission will go live approximately fifteen minutes prior to liftoff at spacex.com.
Peace, love and rockets…
There is a sports car in deep space. Everyone with a smart phone knows what the Falcon Heavy is. It’s official: SpaceX has made launching rockets sexy.
But while the public recovers from its “Falcon Heavy hangover,” SpaceX is already focused on the next mission. And that mission is the launch of the PAZ satellite to Low Earth Orbit aboard a Falcon 9 this Wednesday morning, February 21 from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
PAZ Mission Patch (SpaceX)
The Falcon 9’s first stage that is being used for the PAZ mission previously flew for the FORMOSAT-5 mission from SLC-4E in August of 2017. SpaceX will not attempt to recover the Falcon 9’s first stage after launch, which is almost becoming standard operating procedure for launches involving the older model of their previously-flown boosters.
The PAZ satellite was to have been launched this past Sunday, but SpaceX’s team at Vandenberg wanted to take some additional time to perform final checkouts of the upgraded fairing, which necessitated a postponement to February 21 due to mission requirements. It is perhaps a testament to just how much SpaceX has raised public awareness of the private space industry that the initial delay of this West Coast rocket launch actually made the local news broadcasts in this writer’s hometown of Pittsburgh, PA!
Tomorrow’s PAZ mission is scheduled for liftoff at 9:17am EST (14:17 UTC). For those who’d like to enjoy a rocket launch with their eggs and coffee, SpaceX’s live webcast should begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff on the company’s website and YouTube channel.
And don’t forget, there has never been a better time to write SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk and/or President and COO Gwynne Shotwell to congratulate them on their recent success and ask them to consider the name Serenity for the company’s first Crew Dragon. If you’re not sure what else to write, just tell them we Browncoats think Serenity is the perfect name for a space capsule that will become the flagship of a company that makes doing the impossible look routine!
Peace, love and rockets…