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.
After years of iterating designs on the drawing board, hard work on the factory floor, and combating the naysayers and haters, the Crew Dragon, the first private orbital spacecraft (Virgin Galactic’s bird is a suborbital craft, and yes, the Orion also had an unmanned test flight as the first government-commissioned craft since the space shuttle) will launch from Kennedy Space Center in the United States in the early morning hours of Saturday, the 2nd of March. Continue Reading
Over the next six days, there will be three very somber anniversaries in the space community. That six-day stretch began today, as on this date in 1967, three Apollo 1 astronauts died in a flash fire during a launch pad test. Tomorrow will mark the anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger’s explosion during launch in 1986, a tragedy that claimed the lives of all seven astronauts on board. And then of course this Sunday, February 1, will be the twelfth anniversary of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the seven astronauts of her crew, all of whom perished when the vehicle disintegrated during reentry.
For more about these tragedies and the heroes we lost as a result of them, you can read our World Space Week blog post from October 8, 2012.
These tragic accidents, like the one that claimed the life of a Virgin Galactic test pilot last year, serve as a reminder that leaving this planet is never easy, and that traveling and working in space will never truly be “safe.” But each of these men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of space exploration believed that going out to the black was something worth risking their very lives for, and ultimately they did it for us, for our children and for those future generations for whom travel into Low Earth Orbit will be no more extraordinary than an airline flight from New York to Berlin is today.
And for those of us who will never know what it’s like to break atmo, the least we can do to show our gratitude is honor their memories. May they rest in peace.
Ad astra per aspera…
“Well… here I am.” — Jubal Early, Firefly “Objects in Space”
Yes, here we are. Another year is behind us, and a new year lies ahead.
If you haven’t already, it’s a pretty safe bet that over the next several days you’ll be bombarded with all manner of retrospective pieces about the year that was 2014. That’s appropriate, of course. It was quite a year, with more than its fair share of highs and lows. Those who have been following developments in the space industry are probably familiar with more than a few of them: ISS missions and their commercial resupply flights, ESA’s Rosetta, the disastrous Antares launch and the tragic Virgin Galactic crash, the unveiling of SpaceX’s DragonV2, the awarding of NASA’s Commercial Crew contracts, etc. While it’s always good to take a moment or two to look back on where you’ve been and see how far you’ve come, we’d like to keep the focus of this first post of the New Year on what lies ahead for Take Back the Sky in 2015.
OUR TIME IS NOW
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the motion picture Serenity, the movie that was the realization of a dream for Joss Whedon and the fulfillment of Browncoats’ wishes the world over in that it provided a measure of closure to the story that was begun in the television series Firefly while laying the groundwork for future adventures of Serenity and her crew. That fact alone should be reason enough to believe that 2015 is the perfect time for those of us who want to convince SpaceX that their first manned Dragon capsule should bear the name Serenity to step up our efforts, both to recruit still more Browncoats to our cause and to convince Elon Musk and SpaceX of its worthiness. But nostalgia for the film’s tenth anniversary is hardly the only thing that will be motivating us this year.
Jeff here, making my triumphant return to the fight after landing my dream job and getting my affairs in order for once. It’s a shame, though, that my first update here couldn’t be under more positive circumstances. For the past couple of days, mainstream media and social networks have been running with headlines that tend to share one common phrase: Last week was “a bad week for private space.” Continue Reading
A common misconception that we often encounter is that many people think that space is really far away. Others don’t understand the difference between “sub-orbital” and orbital craft, i.e. why we can’t use tourist craft like Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo to go to Mars, or why SpaceX’s Dragon is similarly a poor match for space tourism.
There has been a lot of controversy in recent weeks about the so-called “sequestration” that has resulted in huge cutbacks in government funding and even the total loss of several programs that are government-funded. This past week, the space industry felt the effects of these cuts, as NASA announced that it has suspended its funding of educational initiatives. Continue Reading