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
For nearly six years now, our Twitter account (@TakeBacktheSky) has been participating in that Twitter tradition known as “Follow Friday.” It’s really not clear to us where the practice originated, but the idea of recommending accounts that others should follow (and perhaps having others recommend yours) was one that seemed like a valuable tool back when we first started Take Back the Sky. After all, the more times a Twitter handle shows up in the Twitterverse, the more likely folk will be to check out who’s behind it and what they’re all about. In the early days of our campaign, it’s likely that Follow Friday tweets actually did give us some valuable exposure, especially when we still had active online petitions asking Elon Musk and SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon after Serenity.
But after careful consideration, we believe the time has come for us to end our participation in Follow Friday.
“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 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:
(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…
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.