SpaceX SAOCOM-1A Launch – October 6th 10:22pm EST

SpaceX SAOCOM-1A
(Image Credit: CONAE)

The SpaceX launch schedule has been a real thing of mystery this year, setting re-usability and turn-around records earlier this summer, and having a bit of a dry spell lately. Well never fear, because you can be sure that Shotwell and the whole crew at everyone’s favorite commercial launch megagiant is busy planning and prepping for the rest of the domination of that 60 year old industry, in short order!

Coming up next we have the launch of the relatively light weight SAOCOM-1A (about 1600 kg) from the West coast at Vandenberg. The device name is an acronym of Satélite Argentino de Observación Con Microondas, and is managed by the Argentine Space Agency CONAE. The device has a L-band (about 1.275 GHz) full polarimetric Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and it’s main mission, in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency, is to assist with emergency management of natural disasters.

There’s usually something cool or special about a SpaceX launch, and this time around it is the planned RTLS (Return To Launch Site) landing of the booster at the newly completed California Landing Zone, a pad only 1400 feet from the SLC-4 launch area. This will be a reused Block 5 booster, which we hope goes 2-for-2 with hardly a second thought. Onward to double digits!

So get excited for an on-shore landing – next time the drone ship Just Read the Instructions may get some more use!

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NASA ADEPT Folding Heat Shield for Mars

NASA ADEPT Folding Heat Shield for Mars
(Image Credit: NASA)

The good folks at NASA have conducted the first flight test of a new foldable heat shield on September 12th, with great success. This new concept is touted as a transformative technology that will enable larger and lighter ships to perform more advanced missions, not the least of which will be both cargo and crew missions to Mars with an enhanced ability to survive the rigors of reentry using a vastly slimmed down system. Any time you can save weight on a spacecraft, that savings can be redistributed to more critical areas, namely additional cargo and scientific apparatus (and pizza ovens).

Called the Adaptive Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT), a backronym worthy of Gary Busey, it consists of a 3D-woven carbon fibers arranged in a thick layer, formed on top of a structure which can flex and deploy the shield. This is in contrast to the traditional rigid, heavy, difficult to construct plastic shielding which has been used for decades. It’s this sort of novel and creative thinking which will allow us to accomplish more important and ambitious flight objectives, and is another great sign that key decision makers are aligned correctly to move us forward.

You can check out a video of the heat shield here!

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SpaceX – Telstar 18 VANTAGE Mission – Launching 9/10/2018 12:30AM EST

Telstar 18 VANTAGE Mission Patch
(Image Credit: SpaceX)

A quick reminder, to anyone still looking tonight, that the next SpaceX launch is still on for 12:30AM EST, after a few time shifts backwards.

This is the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission, which you can learn more about via the official press release from SpaceX.

Be sure to tune in to the always-entertaining SpaceX webcast at least 10 minutes before the scheduled launch, for updates and commentary directly from their team!

SpaceX to launch Telstar 18 VANTAGE September 9th

Telstar 18 VANTAGE
(Image Credit: Telesat)

Initially scheduled for a late-August launch, the Telstar 18 mission has been pushed back to No Earlier Than (NET) September 9th. This is a follow-up mission to the July 22nd launch of the higher-numbered Telstar 19, allowing Telesat to further expand their coverage of the Asia Pacific region.

Gunter tells us that the Telstar 18V is a communications satellite with two high throughput payloads, one in Ku-band and the other in C-band. It will be based on the SSL-1300 bus with an electrical output of approximately 14 kW. Perhaps my favorite spec is that it will have 4 × SPT-100 plasma thrusters.

As for launch details, it is anticipated that the launch will utilize the new Block 5 B1049 first stage booster, which will take off from pad LC-40 at Cape Canaveral and then land on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I Still Love You” at a position approximately 650 km to the East.

As we get closer to this new launch time, we will continue to bring you updates and most importantly a link and a reminder of how to watch live!

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SpaceX – Pad 39a Crew Access Arm

SpaceX Crew Access Arm at Pad 39a
(Image Credit: Tom Cross)

One of the great things about having a genius-level CEO who is hell-bent on pushing mankind into the world they expected to already exist and is a massive sci-fi fan, is that the design aesthetic for everything his companies do is very consciously ‘futuristic’. And why not? It is fantastic to boldly own the fact that we really should look like the Jestons by now, instead of something from the set of 1984’s Repo Man.

A perfect example of this is the new Crew Access Arm (CAA) that SpaceX has installed on Pad 39a at Cape Canaveral. Seeing crew-based hardware going back up on this historic pad should make anyone familiar with recent history very excited, as it was from this very location that all Apollo missions to the moon, powered by the Saturn V, were launched along with many of the more recent Shuttle missions. Restoring that capability to American soil, through American inginuity is something we should all be proud of, and is something to be recognized and celebrated.

From a broader perspective – I believe firmly that the exploration and development of space will be a unifying force for a fractured world. Certainly there will be some unexpected struggles, as there always are, but I think that humans need a sense of adventure and exploration. It’s part of our makeup. We are lacking that now, and spinning our wheels with reality shows and iPhone apps, and basically circling the drain without a shared purpose. Space will be that purpose, and I feel will allow us to lift up from the state in which we find ourselves and achieve the next, better stage of our enlightened development, together as one people.

References:

  • Teslarati – SpaceX’s futuristic Crew Dragon astronaut walkway is ready for US human spaceflight revival

NASA Names Commercial Spaceflight Astronauts

Commercial Crew Astronauts
(Image Source: NASA)

On August 3rd, NASA officially named the astronauts who will fly on the SpaceX and Boeing crew modules destined for the International Space Station. This is a tremendously important step, as it is allowing the US to reclaim their own access to space instead of relying on Russian launch capability as it has since 2011 when the Shuttle was officially mothballed.

On the SpaceX Crew Dragon:

  • (test flight) Col. Bob Behnken of the Air Force
  • (test flight) Doug Hurley, a retired Marine Corps colonel
  • (ISS) Mike Hopkins, Air Force colonel
  • (ISS) Victor Glover, Navy commander

On the Boeing CST-100 Starliner:

  • (test flight) Eric Boe, a former space shuttle pilot who retired from the Air Force
  • (test flight) Christopher Ferguson, a Boeing astronaut who left NASA in 2011
  • (test flight) Lt. Col. Nicole Mann of the Marine Corps
  • (ISS) Williams, a retired Navy captain
  • (ISS) Cmdr. Josh Cassada of the Navy

The test flights will be here before we know it, with uncrewed flights of the new modules scheduled for late 2018, and the first human test flights slated for mid-2019.

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SpaceX Merah Putih Mission Update – August 7 1:18am Eastern

SpaceX Merah Putih Mission Update - August 7 1:18am Eastern
(Image Credit: The Merah Putih spacecraft. Credit: SSL)

An update to the schedule of the new SpaceX launch – the Merah Putih mission is now scheduled for early morning of August 7th. If all stays on the new schedule, the reused Falcon 9 Block 5 booster will lift off at 1:18am Eastern and complete another important mission for the world leader in space technology!

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SpaceX Succeeds with Back to Back Launches – Next Scheduled for August 4th

Pacific Freedom tows home JRTI
(Image Credit: VesselFinder.com)

In an exciting update to news last week of a flurry of SpaceX launches, we are happy to report that they stuck the landing on Just Read the Instructions (JRTI) this morning in the Pacific despite high seas and strong wind shear. What’s more, they successfully completed the mission objective of deploying the next set of Iridium NEXT satellites, bringing the current orbiting total to 65. Only one additional mission remains to complete this large and ambitious new installation. Thanks to the wonder of modern technology, we can even track the tugboat Pacific Freedom as it tows JRTI back to shore!

Press Kits for recent two launches:

Get ready for yet another launch coming up next week – currently scheduled for August 4th from Cape Canaveral. This mission, with a launch window opening at 1:19am Eastern, will loft the Merah Putih (Telkom 4) communications satellite into orbit. Telkom 4 weighs in at 5,800 kg (at the upper limit of stated Falcon reusable payload capacity of 5,500 kg) and has a C-Band payload with 60 transponders, 36 for the Southeast Asia market and 24 for the Indian market. It is using the SSL 1300 bus and will be positioned at 108 degrees. Telkom 4 is a replacement for Telkom 1, which failed on August 25, 2017 before its planned retirement in 2022. The name Merah Putih represents the red and white of the Indonesian flag.

SpaceX Launch details: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida from pad SLC-40. Launch Window 1:19am-3:19am Eastern. Block 5 booster 1048. Recovery on Of Course I Still Love You is planned.

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SpaceX Upcoming Launches, July 22 and July 25

Droneship Tugboat
(Image Credit: Sam Sun for NSF L2)

Get ready for an exciting week ahead, as SpaceX sets out to prove once again just how quickly they can turn their operation around and get rockets into the air. This time they plan to stage 2 launches, on opposite coasts, landing each block 5 booster on their respective East and West Coast Autonomous Drone Ship! The Of Course I Still Love You and Just Read the Instructions are both at sea, positioning themselves for capture of the booster stages that will fly only several days apart.

This sort of launch cadence is another important way that they will prove to both fans and skeptics alike that they are capable of increasing their number of launches per year. This will be a key part of corporate growth – allowing them to fill more of the existing backlog of launch orders – as well as meeting their own ambitious goals for Starlink and eventual Mars supply runs.

So set your watch for this Sunday, July 22nd at 1:50am Eastern and watch as the brand new Block 5 booster takes off with Telstat’s Telstar 19 VANTAGE satellite. Then be sure to set another alarm for Wednesday, July 25th at 7:39am Eastern and watch the next Iridium NEXT mission take flight, fulfilling another piece of that vital contract.

Tug Rachel tows B1046 booster, the first Block 5, to shore
Tug Rachel (our favorite unsung support vessel!) tows booster B1046, the first Block 5, to shore.
(Image Credit: Julia Bergeron)

This excellent article at NasaSpaceFlight.com points out that SpaceX will actually be attempting 5 recoveries in two weeks. This includes the flights mentioned above, as well another launch on August 2nd, the Dragon capsule and the faring halves as well, making it an extremely busy couple of weeks! They have some additional excellent information in that article about the tugboats assigned to the drone ships, as well as the crew boats which deploy on those missions as well so be sure to check it out!

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Arrives at Cape Canaveral

SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Arrives at Cape Canaveral
(Image Credit: SpaceX)

The next big step towards private capacity for human space fight has been taken, and the Crew Dragon module from SpaceX has been delivered to Cape Canaveral for testing.

Plans are to launch the capsule on an un-piloted test later this year in order to assess the performance of key systems and, most importantly, the safety and reliability of the module before human lives are trusted to it. Estimates are that SpaceX should be able to complete the certification process by early 2019, though both they and Boeing are thought to be running behind on their programs. This has the potential for leaving a gap in access to the ISS due to the end of the collaboration with the Russians to use their Soyuz rocket to fly our people.

While this would be an unfortunate eventuality, it is still likely for the best since it will force progress on the NASA side, and should help remove any potential roadblocks that may be inclined to delay the process unduly.

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