SpaceX is set to launch yet another commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). A Falcon9 will carry an unmanned Dragon into the black from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:55pm EDT on Thursday evening, June 1 (If no attempt at a launch is possible during the instantaneous launch window, a backup launch window is set for Saturday, June 3 at 5:07pm EDT).
As is often the case with SpaceX launches, this one aims to make a bit of history. First off, it will be the 100th launch from LC-39A, which has been the site of myriad launches from the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs as well as more recent SpaceX launches. In addition, the Dragon space capsule being used to support the CRS-11 mission previously resupplied the International Space Station on SpaceX’s CRS-4 mission in September of 2014.
CRS-11 is the eleventh of up to twenty planned commercial resupply missions to the ISS by Elon Musk and company. This time around, the Dragon will carry almost 3 tons of supplies and payloads, including critical materials that are needed to support many of the more than 250 science experiments that will occur during ISS Expeditions 52 and 53. ISS crew members will use the station’s robotic “Canadarm2” to reach out and capture the Dragon spacecraft and attach it to the station on June 4. She’ll stay berthed to the station for approximately one month, at which time she’ll return to Earth laden with experiments and other materials being sent home from the ISS and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
And when the Falcon9 breaks atmo and sends the Dragon on her way, the first stage booster will return to land at SpaceX’s LZ-1 landing zone at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Considered to be impractical if not impossible by many skeptics just a few years ago, this has now become almost a standard feature of SpaceX launches, with the only real question asked nowadays being “will they bring it back by land or by sea?”
CRS-11 is also a special mission for us here at Take Back the Sky, because we hope to convince SpaceX to name the first Dragon 2 variant of this very spacecraft (which is being developed to transport American crews to and from the station as early as 2018) after the transport ship Serenity from Joss Whedon’s sci-fi series Firefly (and the subsequent motion picture that shared its name with the ship). A successful resupply mission involving a Dragon is always a great opportunity for Browncoats to write a letter to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and president Gwynne Shotwell to congratulate them on their ongoing success and let them know that they think Serenity would be a very shiny name for the first Dragon to take US astronauts into the black.
SpaceX’s webcast of the launch will go live approximately 20 minutes before liftoff. We invite you to watch along with us, and envision what it will be like to watch a Dragon named Serenity return US astronauts to space from American soil in the not-so-distant future.
We are happy to announce that Take Back the Sky will be at the PA Browncoats table (booth #409) on the floor at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con this coming weekend, June 1-4 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Our fellow Browncoats Tequila Matt Black and Bob Averell and their crew will be at the con with a petition you can sign asking SpaceX to name the first of their manned Dragon space capsules Serenity. They’ll also have templates for form letters to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and President Gwynne Shotwell as well as special “Leaf on the Wind” sheets that you can mail to them, all to let them know you think naming SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon Serenity is a right shiny idea!
The PA Browncoats won’t just be there to promote Take Back the Sky though. They’ll also be spreading the word about this year’s Browncoat Ball, which will be held in Gettysburg, PA in August, as well as Pennsylvania’s Can’t Stop the Serenity charity events in Philadelphia (June 3 and June 24) and Pittsburgh (July 30). So don’t be shy about approaching them and asking about Take Back the Sky, especially if they’re busy talking up the other Browncoats events at the time. If you do, they’ll be happy to help you do your part to make sure we see a real US spaceship named Serenity. After all, Take Back the Sky originated with the PA Browncoats, and like most Browncoats, they are very shiny folk who are always willing to lend a helping hand.
So if you’re going to Wizard World Philly this weekend, don’t forget to stop by the PA Browncoats table to sign our petition and pick up a form letter and a “Leaf on the Wind” sheet. And while you’re at it, be sure to tell Bob and Tequila Matt we send our regards and thank them and their crew for boosting our signal.
Ni hao, travelers! Jeff here, back from a lengthy, profession-induced hiatus, on the air once more. We’ve discussed at length here and in person at cons how real-life voyages out into the black have been inspired by the art of science-fiction. Recent events, however, have opened my eyes to a subtle phenomenon in sci-fi that’s been going on in plain sight, yet has gone unnoticed. Continue Reading
In approximately 24 hours, we will close our second (and likely final) online petition to SpaceX asking them to name their first manned Dragon capsule after Joss Whedon’s fictional spaceship Serenity. Unlike our first online petition, this one was time-sensitive, since it asked SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk or president Gwynne Shotwell to announce the name of the ship at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, which is now less than two weeks away.
We tied this second petition to an announcement at Comic-Con for two simple reasons. The first is that SpaceX has had a presence at SDCC for the past several years, so it made sense that since they were already in attendance, they could take advantage of the massive media attention the con attracts these days without even having to go out of their way to call a press conference. The second is that it’s no secret that Elon Musk has a penchant for spectacle, and when it comes to pop culture, there are few spectacles in the ‘verse bigger than Comic-Con. It was our hope that those two factors would combine to make San Diego Comic-Con the perfect place for SpaceX to name the spaceship that represents the future of American spaceflight after a fictional spaceship that represents the best of American sci-fi television and film– and, if they saw fit to bring the cockpit mockup that they’ve been setting up at astronomy and engineering conferences, it’d also make for some awesome Instagram photos in the pilot’s seat for some lucky Firefly cosplayers!
As a rule we always have high hopes, but we also have to be honest with ourselves. It doesn’t look like it’s going to work out that way. Whereas our first petition accumulated a couple thousand signatures, this latest one has struggled to reach five hundred. I’m sure there are multiple reasons for that, but speculating about them here won’t do anyone any good. Instead, I’d like to focus on the fact that this petition still has the potential to be a success even though it never really “broke atmo” or went viral. Although any logical person would assume that there is next to no chance that SpaceX will actually name their Crew Dragon after Serenity with a surprise announcement at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I don’t think that means this petition can’t still play a role in convincing Elon Musk that his company’s first manned Dragon should bear that name. Here’s why…
SpaceX has announced a June 15 launch date for its next Falcon 9 launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission is to launch the Eutelsat 117 West B and ABS 2A communications satellites to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. SpaceX will also once again attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 downrange of the Cape on its drone-piloted barge Of Course I Still Love You. The launch is scheduled for 10:29am EDT, and there is a 45-minute launch window. SpaceX will broadcast the launch live on its website. Coverage should begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff.
The French-made Eutelsat 117 West B satellite will provide Latin America with video, data, government, and mobile services, while ABS 2A, made by Bermuda and Hong Kong-based Asia Broadcast Satellite, will distribute direct-to-home television, mobile and maritime communications services across Russia, India, the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
The satellites, which will launch in a conjoined configuration and use all-electric propulsion for orbit-raising, were built by Boeing, which has been chosen along with SpaceX to return US astronauts to space in American-built spacecraft as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Project. Boeing, which was to conduct the first Commercial Crew launch, recently announced its flight would have to be delayed until 2018. SpaceX is currently on track to launch its first crewed Dragon spacecraft sometime next year.
Of course, it’s that very Dragon that we want to bear the name Serenity. If you agree that Serenity would be a shiny name for America’s next manned spaceship, then now is the time to let SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and president Gwynne Shotwell know how you feel. You can start by signing our online petition, which will remain open for approximately one more month. And don’t forget: there’s always time to write either or both of them a letter to tell them why you believe SpaceX’s first Dragon should be called Serenity.
Peace, love and rockets…