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 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…
(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.
Peace, love and rockets…
Hot off the success of its most recent Iridium launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, SpaceX now turns its attention to the East Coast and the next in a series of resupply missions to the International Space Station. A Falcon 9 is scheduled to carry an unmanned Dragon capsule into the black from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Monday, April 2 at just past 4:30 pm EDT (20:30 UTC) for ISS resupply mission CRS-14.
The Falcon 9 first stage for this mission is a recovered booster that was previously re-flown during the CRS-12 resupply mission to the ISS. At this time it is still unknown whether or not SpaceX will attempt to recover the first stage again during this mission.
As was the case with previous CRS resupply missions, Dragon will deliver cargo and material to support science investigations aboard the International Space Station.
According to NASA, some of the investigations Dragon will deliver on this mission will look at severe thunderstorms on Earth, study the effects of microgravity on the production of high-performance products from metal powders, and even grow food in space!
Dragon will also deliver cargo for research in the National Laboratory operated by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). These materials will aid in the testing of the effects of the harsh environment of space on materials, coatings and components, as well as identifying potential pathogens aboard the ISS and investigating an antibiotic-releasing wound patch that is in development.
Dragon will remain berthed at the ISS for about a month before returning to Earth with results of earlier experiments and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
Those who watched the Iridium-5 launch may recall that SpaceX was not permitted to continue its live broadcast from space using cameras on the 2nd stage of the Falcon 9. This was because the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the US Department of Commerce deemed the cameras to be a “remote sensing space system” and required SpaceX to apply for a provisional license in order to use them, which they would not have been able to obtain in time to stay on schedule for a March 30 launch that had already experienced delays for numerous other reasons. SpaceX has already stated that there is no such restriction for this mission. And that makes sense… since this resupply mission is being carried out on behalf of the very same federal government that put the restrictions on SpaceX’s most recent mission for a private client in the first place!
Peace, love and rockets…
Since the earliest days of this site, I have written annually about a very somber week in the space community. That week begins today, with the anniversary of the flash fire that occurred on the launch pad during an Apollo 1 test 51 years ago, killing astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Tomorrow will mark the 32nd anniversary of the mid-launch explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which claimed the lives of astronauts Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Francis (Dick) Scobee, Ronald McNair, Mike Smith and Ellison Onizuka. Just four days later, on February 1, we will see the 25th anniversary of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated during re-entry with the loss of astronauts David Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, William McCool, and Ilan Ramon.
Over the years I have written so much about these men and women, their bravery, their sacrifice and their willingness to give their lives if it meant that humanity would come one step closer to a future in which living and working out in the black was a regular part of our daily existence. (If you’d like to read any of it, simply search this site’s archives for any given year in the months of January and February.) As this week of remembrance approached again this year, I realized that I really didn’t have anything new to say that hadn’t already been said about them. I felt that at this point, if there is any one thing that bears repeating, it is that they should be remembered as heroes. Big. Damn. Heroes. Every one of them.
So this year, I would simply like to call your attention to how NASA has decided to honor these astronauts, the crew of Challenger in particular.
SpaceX plans to launch its thirteenth resupply mission to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, Florida this Tuesday, December 12 at 11:46AM EST. A Falcon 9 rocket will carry an unmanned Dragon capsule into the black loaded with supplies, equipment and science experiments, including NASA’s Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) as well as a fiber optic payload. SpaceX will also attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 at the LZ-1 landing site at Cape Canaveral.
This is SpaceX’s first mission since indefinitely postponing the “Zuma” rocket launch that was to have taken place at LC-39A at Cape Canaveral last month. SpaceX indicated that it had some concerns stemming from a payload fairing test for another customer (the “Zuma” mission is supposed to launch a clandestine payload for an unnamed government agency), and that it was standing down until engineers completed their analysis. At this time that mission has yet to be rescheduled, but there are no such concerns for this launch.
According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, Tuesday’s launch of the Dragon will also be the first time that both the orbital rocket and the capsule are being re-flown. SpaceX has successfully reused Falcon 9 boosters on multiple occasions, and has already sent a reused Dragon capsule to the ISS, but this will be the first mission for which both the rocket and the capsule are flight proven. SpaceX has made reusability a priority for several years now, both in an attempt to lower costs and in order to take a significant step toward the day when frequent, perhaps even daily, launches both to and beyond Low Earth Orbit are commonplace.
A crewed version of the Dragon space capsule is scheduled to make its first manned test flight in the latter half of the coming year as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and as you probably well know by now, it’s this Crew Dragon that we hope will be named Serenity after the Firefly-class transport ship in Joss Whedon’s cult-classic space western TV series Firefly and motion picture Serenity. (If you want to know how you can help us make that happen, visit our Take Action page.)
In the meantime, the unmanned, flight proven version of the Dragon will begin its journey to the ISS on Tuesday, and you can watch the mission unfold live online. SpaceX’s webcast of the launch will go live at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel approximately 20-30 minutes prior to liftoff.
Peace, love and rockets.
SpaceX will launch its third Dragon spacecraft this year to the International Space Station on Monday, August 14, 2017 at 1231 EST, delivering thousands of pounds of science equipment and supplies for the astronaut crew. The engines to be used in the launch completed a successful test-fire on Thursday afternoon.
Chief among the payloads will be the new Cosmic-Ray Energetics and Mass
investigation (CREAM) apparatus, which will be attached to the Japanese external “porch” on its laboratory module. It’s hoped that, over the course of its three-year mission, it will provide scientists with a clearer picture of the structure of our universe.
Also among the science payloads being delivered is an experiment to grow protein LRRK-2. It’s long been known that protein crystals grow orders of magnitude faster in microgravity, and with greater crystalline strength. This particular type has been identified as being correlated to the pathology of Parkinson’s Disease; so it is hoped that this experiment, developed by the Michael J. Fox Foundation and other partners, will help scientists understand the disease itself better.
Additionally, this flight itself will be historic in that it will be the last time that a factory-new Dragon craft will be flown for some time. Eventually, of course, they’ll have to make more, but from here on out, the plan is to fly used, saving the company, NASA, and American taxpayers millions–if not billions–of dollars.
Watch the launch live-streamed with us on YouTube or at http://www.spacex.com.