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:
(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…
SpaceX’s next launch, the latest in a series of missions to deploy satellites of the Iridium Next mobile communications fleet, will liftoff on Friday, March 30 from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
A Falcon 9 rocket that was previously launched, recovered and then re-flown during the Iridium-3 mission will carry 10 satellites into the black and deploy them into Polar Low Earth Orbit. Liftoff is scheduled for 10:13am EDT (14:13 UTC).
This mission was to have launched on Thursday, March 29, but Iridium reported an issue with one of the ten satellites during preparation for the mission, which necessitated a postponement until Friday.
It is still unknown whether SpaceX will attempt to land and recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 for this mission. At this point it looks unlikely, but if there’s one thing we’ve come to expect from SpaceX, it’s a willingness to defy expectations.
Peace, love and rockets…
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?