Inspiration4 Launches, Delivers First All-Civilian Crew to Orbit

SpaceX’s 23rd launch of the year was arguably one of its most significant of all time, as a new era in human space exploration began. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

The democratization of human spaceflight drew one step closer Wednesday evening, when SpaceX triumphantly launched the first non-professional, “all-civilian” team of astronauts into low-Earth orbit. Billionaire businessmen and pilot Jared Isaacman and his Inspiration4 crewmates Sian Proctor, Hayley Arceneaux and Chris Sembroski roared into the night at 8:02:56 p.m. EDT from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.



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Dragon Resilience Primed for Wednesday Launch, As Inspiration4 Prepares to Inspire

The first all-civilian spacefaring crew poses for a portrait in their SpaceX pressure suits. Commanding Inspiration4 is Jared Isaacman (top), with Sian Proctor at left, Hayley Arceneaux at right and Chris Sembroski at the bottom. Photo Credit: John Kraus/Inspiration4.com

Favorable weather is expected for Wednesday night’s much-anticipated launch of Dragon Resilience and the Inspiration4 crew, touted as the first “all-civilian” orbital spaceflight. Liftoff of the three-to-five-day mission—which features a twice-used Falcon 9 booster core and a reflown Crew Dragon vehicle—is targeted to occur from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, no sooner than 8:02 p.m. EDT, at the start of a five-hour “window”.



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Second 10x-Flown Falcon 9 Launches, Historic Inspiration4 Mission Up Next

B1049 roars into the night, late Monday, kicking off SpaceX’s first Starlink mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. Photo Credit: SpaceX

After a multi-month “pause” in Starlink launches, SpaceX has delivered its first 51-strong batch of these low-orbiting internet communications satellites to orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. Liftoff of the veteran B1049 core—making a record-tying tenth flight for a Falcon 9 booster, after nine prior missions between September 2018 and last May—took place from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at 8:55 p.m. PDT Monday. Approximately 15 minutes later, the satellites were deployed on their way to a high-inclination orbit of 70 degrees to the equator. They form the inaugural members of a new Starlink orbital “shell” which will expand internet coverage as far as Alaska and Northern Europe.



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Gentlemen's Hours: Remembering STS-48, Thirty Years On

Still in the grasp of the RMS, the massive UARS payload is readied for deployment. Photo Credit: NASA

Late in September 2011, the skies above the Pacific Ocean were illuminated by an astonishing fireshow. NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS)—launched 30 years ago today, on 12 September 1991—returned to Earth in a blaze of glowing debris. Originally planned to survive for just two years, UARS spent more than a decade examining gas concentrations and pressures, the effects of solar irradiance and ozone levels in the Earth’s atmosphere. From its vantage point high above the planet, UARS observed 80 degrees in latitude and furnished scientists with near-global coverage of the stratosphere and mesosphere regions.



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'Wounds In Your Own Country': Remembering 9/11 From Space, 20 Years On

Smoke covers New York City like a shroud on 11 September 2001, as seen by the cameras of the Expedition 3 crew. Photo Credit: NASA

There are some events in our lives which leave an indelible mark, perhaps none more so than the loss of almost 3,000 innocents on the morning of 11 September 2001, when a pair of commercial airliners ploughed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City. Another jet later hit the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and—thanks to the selfless heroism of its passengers and crew—a fourth failed to reach its target in Washington, D.C., and instead crashed into a field, near Shanksville, Penn. That dreadful day, 20 Septembers ago, reminded us that although evil endures in our world, the goodness of humanity can and will ultimately prevail.



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James Webb Space Telescope Completes Testing, Prepares for Historic Launch This Fall

After many delays, the James Webb Space Telescope has now been fully assembled and tested. Photo Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Almost there! After years of delays, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is finally nearing its launch date. This week, NASA announced that JWST has completed its final tests. This is a huge milestone, and now the telescope is being prepared for shipment to its launch site at Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The testing was conducted at Northrop Grumman.



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SpaceX Launches CRS-23 Dragon Mission to Space Station

Her nine Merlin 1D+ engines burning furiously, B1061 begins her fourth mission to space. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

After almost two flightless months, a veteran Falcon 9 booster which has already launched eight humans and a powerful geostationary communications satellite roared into the night at 3:14 a.m. EDT Sunday. Liftoff of the B1061 core—the ninth Falcon 9 to log as many as four flights—occurred from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, carrying SpaceX’s CRS-23 Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Originally scheduled to fly early Saturday morning, the launch was scrubbed due to unacceptable weather.

About 12 minutes after leaving the Space Coast, the Dragon separated from the second stage of the booster and is now on course for a rendezvous and autonomous docking at the station tomorrow. This morning’s launch also marked the first use of SpaceX’s newest Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), “A Shortfall of Gravitas” (ASoG).



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Record-Setting New Shepard Launches Postcards, Lunar Landing Tech, Art to Edge of Space

Today’s mission featured the second New Shepard flight for NASA’s Deorbit, Descent and Landing Sensor Demonstration (DDL). Photo Credit: Blue Origin

Barely five weeks since it triumphantly lifted four humans beyond the “Kármán Line” and the internationally-recognized edge of space, a cargo-only variant of Blue Origin’s New Shepard booster rose from Launch Site One in West Texas at 9:31 a.m. CDT Thursday. The “NS3” vehicle—flying an impressive eighth time since its maiden voyage back in December 2017—roared smoothly uphill, laden with a mixed bag of postcards, artwork and science. With Thursday’s successful launch, NS3 has now delivered dozens of research, technology and educational payloads to suborbital space and having wrapped up its eighth mission now stands as Blue Origin’s undisputed fleet-leader. Designated NS-17, the mission was also the 17th consecutive successful launch of a New Shepard booster.



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Crew Medical Issue Delays Spacewalk to Prepare for New Solar Arrays

Expedition 65 Commander Aki Hoshide (left) and Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei prepare space suits inside the station’s Quest airlock last month. Photo Credit: NASA

A lengthy session of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) by Expedition 65 spacewalkers Aki Hoshide and Mark Vande Hei has been postponed, reportedly due to a crew medical issue. NASA on Monday announced that Tuesday’s planned U.S. EVA-77—the 77th station-based excursion conducted in U.S.-built Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), without the presence of the Space Shuttle—will now occur after this weekend’s launch of the SpaceX CRS-23 Dragon cargo mission and a pair of critical Russian spacewalks early next month to commence outfitting the newly-arrived Nauka (“Science”) lab.



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NG-16 Cygnus Launches, Honors Challenger Veteran, Heads to Space Station

In this black and white infrared image, Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Antares 230+ rocket carrying the NG-16 Cygnus resupply spacecraft launches from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at 6:01:05 a.m. EDT on Tuesday. Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Laden with 8,200 pounds (3,700 kg) of payloads and supplies, Northrop Grumman Corp.’s NG-16 Cygnus cargo ship—named in honor of shuttle Challenger hero Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian-American astronaut—is zeroing-in on a berth at the International Space Station (ISS), following its late afternoon launch Tuesday from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va. The station was approximately 260 miles (420 km) above the Indian Ocean at the instant of liftoff.

Onizuka becomes the first member of the “Challenger Seven” to be so honored with an ISS-bound cargo ship in his memory. Previous spacecraft in the Cygnus fleet have already recognized two Columbia astronauts and one member of the ill-fated Apollo 1 crew.



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