For the past seven years we here at Take Back the Sky have been focusing our efforts to get a real-life manned spaceship named Serenity on SpaceX and its founder and CEO, Elon Musk. If you want to understand why we chose SpaceX and not Virgin Galactic, Boeing, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, or any other private company that’s in the business of building and launching spaceships, you need look no further than the upcoming Starlink-1 mission. While SpaceX has been in the business of making history (and making spaceflight sexy again) for some time now, this latest mission has several features that just exude the daring, independent spirit that we Browncoats value so highly.
Starlink-1 Mission Patch (courtesy SpaceX Now)
First of all, the mission’s very purpose is something any Browncoat would admire. With Starlink, SpaceX hopes to establish a mega-constellation of 12,000 satellites that will provide high-speed internet across the entire planet. The endeavor will cost Elon Musk and company roughly $10 billion, and it is expected to take approximately 10 years. When it’s finished, however, anyone will be able to have high-speed internet access anywhere on the globe, and the best connections will no longer be reserved for those who are in the most populated areas or have the finances to afford the equipment necessary to establish a good connection out on the raggedy edge. SpaceX plans to have half the constellation in orbit by 2024, with the full constellation out in the black by 2028.
The Starlink-1 launch, which is planned NET 10:30PM EDT on May 15 (02:30 GMT May 16) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, will be the sixth SpaceX launch of 2019 and the fifth for a Falcon 9. It will also be the 70th Falcon 9 launch since 2010. Its payload will be no less than 60 satellites that will be inserted into Low Earth Orbit. SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell has stated publicly that this first batch of 60 satellites will drive the schedule for the next set of spacecraft to be launched, depending on how successful they are.
There’s more to the Browncoat nature of this mission than its everyman payload, however. The logistics of the mission also reflect the attitude of a company that aims to misbehave. Not only will the mission utilize a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage, but for the first time, the satellites will also be launched within a previously-flown payload fairing. The Falcon 9 first stage being used is core B1049, which was previously utilized for the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019 as well as the Telstar 18V mission in September 2018. (It will be recovered yet again aboard SpaceX’s Atlantic droneship Of Course I Still Love You during this mission.) The payload fairing for the mission is expected to be the one that SpaceX successfully recovered from the Atlantic Ocean following the most recent Falcon Heavy mission.
CRS-17 Mission Patch (Courtesy: Wikipedia)
SpaceX planned to launch its 17th resupply mission to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 1, but now the launch will have to wait until NET Friday, May 3 so that NASA can troubleshoot a problem with an electrical distribution unit on the International Space Station.
When the mission does finally break atmo, a previously unflown Block 5 Falcon 9 will insert Dragon into Low Earth Orbit, where it will rendezvous with the ISS and deliver over 5,500 pounds of supplies, experiments and equipment to the astronauts of Expedition 59 aboard the space station.
The logistics of this particular mission certainly have been fluid. The first stage of the booster was originally scheduled to land at Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but the Falcon 9 will now land at sea aboard the SpaceX drone ship Of Course I Still Love You due to the ongoing investigation at LZ-1 into the anomaly that occurred there during a Crew Dragon abort system test on April 20. During that incident, which occurred as SpaceX was testing the Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco abort engines, the capsule that made Crew Dragon’s first demonstration flight (DM-1) to the ISS on March 2 of this year was lost.
Yes, this is the very same Crew Dragon that we here at Take Back the Sky want Elon Musk to name after the transport ship Serenity from Joss Whedon’s cult sci-fi TV series Firefly, and of course we still hope to convince SpaceX to christen a future Crew Dragon with that name.
But in the meantime, the OG Dragon is now scheduled to lift off NET 3:11 AM EST (7:11 GMT) on May 3. The current forecast shows the weather as being 60% go for launch. For those night owls who want to watch it live, SpaceX’s webcast of the CRS-17 launch should go live approximately 20 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…
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…
When SpaceX launches the Nusantara Satu (PSN-6) mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this Thursday, it will mark the first East Coast launch of a Falcon 9 this year.
That’s because the Crew Dragon (yes, that same ship we want Elon Musk and company to name Serenity after Joss Whedon’s fictional Firefly-class transport ship) was supposed to have launched from the Space Coast back in mid-January for its unmanned demo flight (DM-1). That mission has now slipped to March 2 though, so in the meantime SpaceX will send the Indonesian communications satellite Nusantara Satu (PSN-6) into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit on February 21, after which the first stage of the Falcon 9 will land aboard the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.
“Fly me to the Moon:” Israel’s Beresheet lunar lander (photo courtesy UPI)
Of particular interest is the secondary payload on this mission– the Beresheet lunar lander, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and a nonprofit company called SpaceIL. Once deployed, this privately-funded lander will embark on Israel’s first lunar mission. If it is successful, Israel will join the US, Russia and China in the very exclusive club of nations that have landed spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. The lander will carry a payload that includes the prayer of “Tefilat Haderech,” the Bible, an Israeli flag, the Israeli national anthem, pictures drawn by children and a photo honoring Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard Space Shuttle Columbia in 2006.
Liftoff of the Nusantara Satu (PSN-6) mission is scheduled for 8:45PM EST (1:45 UTC) on February 21. Those who want to watch the launch live (and night launches surely are a sight to behold) can tune in to SpaceX’s webcast approximately 20 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…
SpaceX’s next launch is slated for Thursday, November 15 at 3:46 PM EST from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, when a Falcon 9 will send the Es’hail-2 communications satellite into geostationary orbit.
Es’hail-2 will boost ham radio signals worldwide. (image: amsat-uk.org)
According to the Kennedy Space Center website, the satellite is designed to assist with broadband connectivity and broadcast capability for Qatar and its neighbors, but it will also boost the signal of ham radio operators from Brazil to Thailand. The satellite is owned by Qatar’s national satellite communications company, Es’hailSat, but was built in Japan by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation.
Thursday’s launch, SpaceX’s 18th of the year, will be the 63rd flight of a Falcon 9 rocket to date. The Falcon 9 that will launch Es’hail-2 is a previously-flown booster that was last used for the July 22 launch of the Telstar 19 VANTAGE communications satellite.
SpaceX is expected to attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 aboard the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You a few hundred miles off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Es’hail-2 mission will also be the first time in several months that SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 during the day, so those on the East Coast who want to view the launch won’t have to stay up late to do it this time around. A live webcast of the launch should begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…
It’s almost become a rarity to have a break between SpaceX launches anymore. It seems like we’ve written a lot this summer about multiple launches in the span of a week, or even two launches in a weekend, so it’s kind of hard to believe that it’s been over a month since the last time a Falcon 9 broke atmo. That will change Sunday night though, when SpaceX launches the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite (Telstar 18V for short) into Geostationary Transfer Orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Night launches of the Falcon 9, like the one SpaceX plans this Sunday, can be visually quite spectacular. (Photo: Mike Killian via Space Coast Daily)
The upcoming launch, which is scheduled for September 9 at 11:28 PM EDT (03:28 UTC), will feature a brand new “Block 5” Falcon 9 that has never previously flown. SpaceX plans to recover the rocket’s first stage in the Atlantic Ocean aboard the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.
The Telstar 18V is a communications satellite that will be shared between the Canadian company Telesat and Hong Kong’s APT Satellite Co. Ltd. According to Telesat, it is designed to aid communications from India and Pakistan all the way to Hawaii, and has a potential mission length of more than 15 years. SpaceX successfully launched the second satellite in this series in July of this year.
The most recent weather forecast from the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing shows 60% favorable conditions for Sunday night’s launch.
So, if you’re looking for an alternative to ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball (Astros at Red Sox, if you were wondering) or NBC’s Sunday Night Football (Bears at Packers, if you care), you can watch the prime time launch of Telstar 18V live online at spacex.com or the company’s YouTube channel. For those new fans out there, SpaceX typically begins its live webcast of launches approximately 20 minutes before liftoff.
Peace, love and rockets…
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.
Those who would like to watch the launch can tune in to spacex.com or the company’s YouTube channel. SpaceX’s webcasts typically begin around 20 minutes before liftoff.
Peace, love and rockets…