In the early hours of Sunday, the 22nd of July, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will launch the Telstar 19 Vantage (or 19V) high-bandwidth satellite aboard the Falcon 9 rocket between the hours of 0150-0550, EST. Continue Reading
“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
It’s a pretty safe bet SpaceX will launch the first rocket of the month of June.
A Falcon 9 will head out to the black in the early morning hours of June 1 to deliver the SES-12 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). Liftoff is scheduled for 12:29am EDT (4:29 UTC) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SES-12 is designed to improve communication and connectivity in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions.
The Falcon 9 booster for this mission is flight-proven, having previously flown the OTV-5 mission that carried the Air Force’s top secret mini-shuttle, the X-37B, into orbit. There are no plans for the first stage of the Falcon 9 to land during this mission, however SpaceX does plan to retrieve the fairings from the ocean as they have on several of their more recent missions. (GO Pursuit, SpaceX’s Atlantic “fairing hunter” boat, was observed heading out to sea May 29.)
Current forecasts show that the weather is only 40% favorable for the primary launch date, though it increases to 60% favorable 24 hours later for the backup launch date.
Peace, love and rockets…
SpaceX will make it a double when it launches its next Falcon 9 into the black from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg AFB in California on Tuesday, May 22. The “Block 4” Falcon 9, which flew previously for that top-secret ZUMA mission back in November, will carry two satellite payloads into Low Earth Polar Orbit– Iridium-6 and GRACE-FO.
The instantaneous launch window will open at 3:47 EST (19:47 UTC). The GRACE-FO satellites will deploy early in the mission (less than twelve minutes after liftoff). The five Iridium NEXT satellites will deploy roughly an hour into the mission.
As the name suggests, Iridium-6 will be the sixth mission SpaceX has flown for Iridium as it replaces and upgrades the world’s largest commercial satellite network. At the conclusion of this mission, SpaceX will have just two missions remaining for Iridium, after which it will have delivered a total of 75 new satellites into orbit– 66 operational satellites and nine on-orbit spares. The ongoing Iridium NEXT mission is one of the largest “tech upgrades” in space history.
Meanwhile, the NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) GRACE Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission is intended to continue GRACE’s 15-year legacy of tracking the movement of Earth’s mass. These twin satellites will allow the distribution of Earth’s mass to be mapped monthly and tracked over larger periods of time. This will, in turn, provide valuable data about climate change, including changes in ice sheets and glaciers, water levels in large lakes and rivers as well as sea level, and various water and energy cycles.
Since the Falcon 9 being used for this mission is a “Block 4” model, it is unlikely that there will be a landing of the rocket’s first stage. SpaceX will attempt to capture the fairings, however, and Mr. Steven, the company’s “spider-boat” that was designed especially for that purpose, is already at sea.
Peace, love and rockets…
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: