Earlier this week, NASA conducted Ascent Abort 2, a critical milestone in the development of the Orion spacecraft to ensure the future safety of astronauts onboard. The day prior, the agency hosted influencers and bloggers for a press event under the NASA SOCIAL program — and Take Back the Sky was invited along for the ride.
The morning started with short briefings in the very same media broadcasting facilities that news anchors used to report live on the Apollo missions back in the day. That big clock from the movies is even in view.
Houston, we’ve gone legit.
Two engineers who have worked on preparing the (simulated) craft for this test fielded questions about the very, very short-lived flight that would take place. The purpose of this test flight was to literally abort during ascent, that is, after liftoff on the way up. The Orion’s dedicated escape thrusters would fire, yanking it up, away and clear of the rocket as it continues on its way to space — or more likely the ocean, I guess, given that this is an abort. Either way, it’s crucial to test-fire the system to ensure that, before any astronauts fly onboard, that the Big Red Button will work if they have to press it.
Here at Take Back the Sky, we’ve made no attempt to disguise the fact that we support and advocate independent spaceflight by private individuals – I think that gets called a “bias” these days. It has never had anything to do with politics. We just feel that pursuing a future like the kind depicted in Firefly and Serenity where any ordinary Joe can fly wherever they want in a ship of their own is worthy and noble.
The media likes to make a great deal of noise and bluster about recent advances in spaceflight and tries to get mileage out of it by depicting it as a David-and-Goliath battle between large companies set in their ways and smaller, scrappy upstarts driven by ideals. It’s a portrayal that is not without merit, for sure – a valid argument could be made that our progress out in the black has stagnated in large part due to complacency in the industry and its relationship with government as a contractor.
So, it’s no surprise that, when a company like SpaceX shakes things up and challenges others to adapt, it makes headlines. I mean, for the love of Shepherd Book, they’ve actually made space cool again. People by and large have been starving for something new, for things to pick back up again, and it’s only natural that SpaceX and other “New Space” companies garner attention for their impressive achievements.
It’s occurred to me recently, though, that in our excitement and newfound optimism for the future, it becomes very, very easy to dismiss or even disparage the accomplishments that still continue to be made by NASA and “legacy” companies, such as the Orion spacecraft – and that’s not because I started working for Lockheed-Martin. Speaking of which – Continue Reading
When Falcon Heavy made its debut launch back in February of 2018, it was primarily what the US Navy would have called a “shakedown cruise.” The mission for the launch was just to prove that SpaceX had a powerful horse that could really run, and the rocket passed the test in style, sending Elon Musk’s own Tesla Roadster into the black with a dummy nicknamed “Starman” at the wheel and executing a perfectly synchronized dual booster landing that could only be described as unforgettable.
But this week Falcon Heavy really goes to work, with a launch from Space Launch Complex 39A (SLC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida that will send the Arabsat-6A satellite into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). The Arabsat-6A is a Saudi Arabian communications satellite built by Lockheed Martin. It is designed to provide television, internet and phone services to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
According to SpaceX: “Falcon Heavy’s 27 Merlin engines generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, making it the world’s most powerful operational rocket by a factor of two.” In the background is the Falcon 9 booster that launched Crew Dragon to the ISS in March. (Photo and data courtesy SpaceX via Twitter)
Apparently SpaceX also has a triple landing planned for this mission, with boosters landing at both LZ-1 and LZ-2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as well as on SpaceX’s Atlantic droneship Of Course I Still Love You.
Liftoff is scheduled for NET Tuesday, April 9 at 6:36 p.m. EDT (22:36 GMT). Those who want to see the massive rocket break atmo (and watch as SpaceX turns a booster landing triple play) can tune in to SpaceX’s live webcast at spacex.com or the company’s YouTube channel. Coverage will begin approximately 20 minutes before launch.
Peace, love and rockets…
SVO1 Mission Patch (Courtesy NASA Spaceflight.com)
Tuesday’s launch of a Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will carry the GPS III SVO1 satellite into orbit for the United States Air Force. Once deployed, the satellite will join existing global positioning systems (GPS) to assist in providing navigation, positioning and timing services for the United States. This particular satellite, which was built by Lockheed Martin, is nicknamed “Vespucci” after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer from whose name the word “America” is derived.
SpaceX will also have a special guest on hand for its first national security mission, as US Vice-President Mike Pence will be in attendance to view the launch. The Vice-President called SpaceX’s launch of GPS III SVO1 “… an important step forward as we seek to secure American leadership in space.”
SpaceX will use a brand new Falcon 9 for this mission, and will not attempt to land the first stage after launch. Liftoff is scheduled for NET December 18 at 9:10AM EST (14:10 UTC). Weather conditions are currently 90% favorable.
Those who wish to view the launch can watch live at spacex.com and on SpaceX’s YouTube channel. The webcast will commence approximately 20 minutes before liftoff, but since this is a national security launch we may not be able to watch the mission in its entirety.
Peace, love and rockets…
Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster loaded inside the spacious Falcon Heavy payload fairing, which will throw it into a Martian Transfer Orbit during this week’s demonstration launch.
On Tuesday, February 6th, during a launch window that opens at 1:30 PM and ends at 4:30 PM EST, SpaceX will attempt the maiden launch of its newest launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy. As a demonstration flight, rather than a commercial or government satellite, it will instead launch a test payload consisting of CEO Elon Musk’s own Tesla electric roadster.
The historic significance of this launch will be lost on most, dismissed by cynics as just another corporation debuting a new product they hope to court the masses with. What a majority of people fail to realize is that not all rockets are created equal.