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…
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:
Back in 2014, one of my favorite characters from DC Comics, John Constantine, was given his own television series on NBC. The series, which was simply called Constantine, starred Welsh actor Matt Ryan in the title role and used many of the classic stories from the original Hellblazer comics that were published by DC’s subsidiary comics imprint Vertigo. Despite strong stories and a very good cast, NBC never quite figured out how to promote Constantine properly, and it was cancelled after just one 13-episode season due to poor ratings in its Friday night time slot, much to the disappointment of a small but loyal fan base.
Does any of this sound familiar?
There is a sports car in deep space. Everyone with a smart phone knows what the Falcon Heavy is. It’s official: SpaceX has made launching rockets sexy.
But while the public recovers from its “Falcon Heavy hangover,” SpaceX is already focused on the next mission. And that mission is the launch of the PAZ satellite to Low Earth Orbit aboard a Falcon 9 this Wednesday morning, February 21 from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The Falcon 9’s first stage that is being used for the PAZ mission previously flew for the FORMOSAT-5 mission from SLC-4E in August of 2017. SpaceX will not attempt to recover the Falcon 9’s first stage after launch, which is almost becoming standard operating procedure for launches involving the older model of their previously-flown boosters.
The PAZ satellite was to have been launched this past Sunday, but SpaceX’s team at Vandenberg wanted to take some additional time to perform final checkouts of the upgraded fairing, which necessitated a postponement to February 21 due to mission requirements. It is perhaps a testament to just how much SpaceX has raised public awareness of the private space industry that the initial delay of this West Coast rocket launch actually made the local news broadcasts in this writer’s hometown of Pittsburgh, PA!
Tomorrow’s PAZ mission is scheduled for liftoff at 9:17am EST (14:17 UTC). For those who’d like to enjoy a rocket launch with their eggs and coffee, SpaceX’s live webcast should begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff on the company’s website and YouTube channel.
And don’t forget, there has never been a better time to write SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk and/or President and COO Gwynne Shotwell to congratulate them on their recent success and ask them to consider the name Serenity for the company’s first Crew Dragon. If you’re not sure what else to write, just tell them we Browncoats think Serenity is the perfect name for a space capsule that will become the flagship of a company that makes doing the impossible look routine!
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.
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.