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
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.
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.
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
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…