SpaceX to Launch 7 Satellites into Different Orbits Tuesday, Attempt Fairing Recovery

SpaceX is scheduled to launch the next five Iridium NEXT global mobile communications satellites to orbit, along with the NASA / German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX is the final stages of preparing for a launch attempt on Tuesday, May 22, to deliver the next five Iridium NEXT global mobile communications satellites to orbit, along with a pair of formation-flying, gravity-measuring NASA spacecraft. Liftoff atop an already flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket, used previously to launch the classified ZUMA mission earlier this year, is scheduled for precisely 12:47:58 pm PDT (19:47:58 UTC) from Vandenberg AFB, California.

Weather is looking very good for Tuesday, and everything else is on schedule“, said Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium Corp., looking ahead at SpaceX’s tenth commercial flight out of the mountain-ringed launch site.

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Antares Launches Ninth Cygnus Cargo Delivery Mission to Space Station

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, May 21, 2018 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s ninth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Photo Credit: NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

Orbital ATK’s tenth Cygnus cargo ship successfully roared away from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at 4:44 a.m. EDT Monday, 21 May. Designated “OA-9”, it was the tenth overall launch of a Cygnus, when one includes its ORB-D “demonstration” mission, back in September 2013. However, confusing the picture still further, the loss of one mission in October 2014 makes OA-9 the ninth time that one of these heavyweight cargo ships has successfully reached space. Within minutes, the liquid-fueled Antares 230 booster successfully boosted OA-9 and its 7,400 pounds (3,350 kg) of cargo, payloads and supplies for the International Space Station (ISS), where it is due to arrive on Thursday, 24 May.

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Attitude Control Game: Remembering Skylab's Fateful Launch, 45 Years Ago

The Saturn V which launched Skylab was visually quite distinct from its predecessors. Although it possessed the S-IC and S-II first and second stages, the place of the third stage (S-IVB) was taken by the inert space station. Photo Credit: NASA

Forty-five years ago, this month, America almost lost its first space station. On the morning of 14 May 1973, the last in a generation of Saturn V boosters sat on historic Pad 39A, ready for its journey into space. Visually, it was quite distinct from its predecessors, possessing two stages, instead of three, and in place of what would have been the final propulsive stage was Skylab, capped by a bullet-like aerodynamic shroud. To this day, the Saturn V remains the largest and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status, and as it entered the final hours before its last launch, it could enjoy an almost unblemished reputation: its 12 previous missions had never failed to complete their primary objectives. The ominous, brewing clouds at Cape Kennedy carried much menace, but everyone knew the Saturn’s reliability: its muscle had sent men to the Moon on nine occasions, and for its final swan song there was every expectation that it would perform with perfection.

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Cygnus Raised for Pre-Dawn OA-9 Launch to Space Station Monday from Virginia

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is raised at launch Pad-0A, Friday, May 18, 2018 at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Antares will launch with the Cygnus spacecraft filled with 7,400 pounds of cargo for the International Space Station (ISS), including science experiments, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware. The mission is Orbital ATK’s ninth contracted cargo delivery flight to ISS for NASA. Photo Credit: NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

UPDATE May 19 @ 10:00am EDT – Story updated with photos of Antares being raised vertical atop the launch pad in preparation for a launch attempt at 4:39 a.m. EDT Monday morning (8:39am UTC).

UPDATE May 18 @ 12:30pm EDT – Launch has been delayed to NET Monday, May 21st at 4:39 a.m. EDT, “to support further pre-launch inspections and more favorable weather conditions. Monday shows an 80% probability of acceptable weather for launch.”

ORIGINAL STORY – Around 7,400 pounds (3,350 kg) of cargo, payloads and supplies for the incumbent Expedition 55 and upcoming astronaut and cosmonaut crews are due to rocket towards the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday morning, 20 May, when Orbital ATK lofts its Antares 230 booster from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va. Current plans call for the 133-foot-tall (40.5-meter) Antares to launch during a five-minute “window”, which opens at 5:04 a.m. EDT. Designated “OA-9”—for Orbital ATK, which is currently in the final stages of procurement by Northrop Grumman Corp.—Sunday’s mission is the ninth dedicated cargo delivery flight to launch, but actually the tenth overall, when one counts the September 2013 ORB-D “demonstration” mission. Assuming an on-time launch, the Cygnus cargo ship will arrive at the station on Thursday, 24 May, where it will be robotically captured by the 57.7-foot-long (17.6-meter) Canadarm2 and berthed on the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the Harmony node.

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Expedition 55 Spacewalkers Tend to Station Cooling System on 50th Quest-Based EVA

Expedition 55 spacewalkers Drew Feustel (right) and Ricky Arnold (left), pictured inside the Quest airlock with crewmate Norishige Kanai. Photo Credit: NASA/Twitter

Expedition 55 spacewalkers Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold have completed a six-hour and 31-minute session of Extravehicular Activity (EVA), outside the International Space Station (ISS), during which they removed a 235-pound (107 kg) Pump Flow Control Subassembly (PFCS) from a spare parts platform to the Dextre “hand” of the 57.7-foot-long (17.6-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm. It will be robotically relocated to the P-6 truss, where it will be further inspected and analyzed, before potential future use as a viable spare for the station’s cooling system. Meanwhile, Feustel and Arnold brought a leaky PFCS from Dextre for storage and removed and replaced a failed external camera group and a space-to-ground transmitter receiver controller, the latter of which provides critical redundancy for the station’s Ku-band communications infrastructure.

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New Evidence For Water Vapor Plumes on Europa Discovered In Old Galileo Mission Data

Illustration of the Galileo probe at Europa in 1997, and how the plume disrupted the moon’s magnetic field. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Michigan

For decades, Jupiter’s moon Europa has fascinated scientists and the public alike after it was learned that a global water ocean lies beneath the icy crust. Could there be life on this small world? Now, new results from old data, presented today in a NASA live science chat, are hinting that the subsurface environment on Europa might indeed be quite habitable, as other studies have also suggested. Previous observations indicated that there were plumes of water vapor erupting from below the surface into space, similar to ones on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Confirmation was difficult, but a new study shows that the old Galileo probe to Jupiter in the late 1990s not only detected a plume, but actually flew through it, although that was unknown at the time.

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Flying in Martian Skies: NASA's 2020 Rover Mission Will Include Tiny Helicopter

Artist’s conception of the autonomous, drone-like Mars Helicopter, which will be sent to Mars along with the 2020 rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Excitement has been building for NASA’s next rover mission to Mars, scheduled to launch sometime in 2020. Although it looks a lot like the current Curiosity rover, its mission will be to search directly for possible evidence of past life. Curiosity, on the other hand, is studying the ancient habitability of Gale crater, which we now know used to hold a lake or series of lakes, focusing more on geology than biology. And now the upcoming 2020 mission just got even better – NASA has approved the inclusion of a tiny drone-like helicopter to accompany the rover!

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The Right Man: Remembering Gordon Cooper's Day-Long Mercury Mission, 55 Years On

The Atlas booster rises from Pad 14 on 15 May 1963, carrying Gordon Cooper on his day-long Faith 7 mission. His was the longest single U.S. piloted spaceflight at that time. Photo Credit: NASA

Early on 14 May 1963, a hotshot pilot lay on his back in a tiny capsule, atop a converted ballistic missile, and steeled himself to be blasted into space. On Project Mercury’s final mission, Gordon Cooper would spend 34 hours in space, circle the globe 22 times, and establish NASA’s first real baseline of long-duration experience as the space agency and the nation prepared to land a man on the Moon before the end of the decade. To be fair, the flight would last barely a quarter as long as the Soviet Union’s four-day Vostok 3 mission a year earlier, but for NASA it would mark an important step forward. Yet there were many senior managers who doubted Cooper was right for the job. Two days earlier, he had buzzed the administration building at Cape Canaveral in his F-106 jet, sparking a flurry of frantic emergency calls and maddening Project Mercury Operations Director Walt Williams to the extent that he almost grounded Cooper in favor of his backup, Al Shepard. Cooper had much ground to make up in order to restore faith in his abilities.

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SpaceX Launches New Falcon 9 'Block 5' with Bangabandhu-1, Nails 25th Landing

Launch of Bangabandhu 1 atop the first SpaceX ‘Block 5’ Falcon 9 rocket from KSC pad 39A on May 11, 2018. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

For the first time, Bangladesh has joined the community of nations to have its own communications satellite in geostationary orbit, some 22,300 miles (35,900 km) above the Home Planet, following Friday’s successful launch of Bangabandhu-1 aboard the maiden “Block 5” variant of the Upgraded Falcon 9 booster. Liftoff occurred 4:14pm EDT from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Although not a homegrown spacecraft—but rather a “turnkey” project, with the satellite and complete ground segment fabricated by the Franco-Italian aerospace firm Thales Alenia Space—Bangabandhu-1 will reside at 119.1 degrees East longitude and bring 40 C-band and Ku-band transponders to bear on a South Asian nation which approaches a half-century since its fragile independence. The satellite is named in honor of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s first president, who earned the populist nickname of “Bangabandhu”, or “Friend of Bengal”.

Today’s mission also marked the first outing of the “Block 5” variant of the Upgraded Falcon 9. Although visibly similar to its predecessors, standing 230 feet (70 meters) tall, the new configuration of the rocket is characterized by an approximately 7-8-percent thrust increase across all of its Merlin 1D+ engines, strengthened landing legs and improved reusability performance and enhanced flight control systems.

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SpaceX Sets May 10 For 'Block 5' Launch Debut with Satellite for Bangladesh

The first Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 rocket rolls onto pad 39A for Static Test Fire ahead of launching Bangabandhu 1. Photo: SpaceX

UPDATE May 10 @ 6:15pm Eastern: Launch attempt scrubbed for the day, next launch attempt May 11 @ 4:14pm Eastern.

UPDATE May 10 @ 1:45pm Eastern: New liftoff time targeting 4:42pm Eastern.

ORIGINAL STORY – SpaceX’s long awaited first “Block 5” variant of their workhorse Falcon 9 rocket is ready to make its launch debut this week at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, after conducting a successful Static Test Fire atop historic pad 39A on May 4. The booster is scheduled to launch the Bangabandhu-1 communications satellite for Bangladesh at 4:12 p.m. Eastern on May 10, and although successful launch of the payload to orbit is the priority, the rocket’s transition from development and testing to fully operational marks a significant step towards returning astronauts to space from U.S. soil before the turn of the decade.

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