Lucy Launches, Begins Multi-Billion-Mile Trek to Explore Dawn of the Solar System

Flying for the first time in its 401 configuration in more than four years, this morning’s Atlas V launch occurred at the opening moment of Lucy’s 23-day launch window to reach the Jovian Trojans. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

After one of its least-flown years on record, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has successfully executed its fourth mission of 2021 with a rousing, pre-dawn liftoff of NASA’s ambitious Lucy mission to explore multiple Trojan-class asteroids which lead or trail the orbital path of the giant planet Jupiter. A “barebones” Atlas V rocket—flying for the first time in its “401” configuration from the Space Coast in more than four years—rose from storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., at 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday. Launch occurred at the opening instant of a 23-day “window” to reach its Trojan targets.



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Weather Looks Favorable for Before-Dawn Saturday Launch of Lucy Mission

Lucy will investigate multiple bodies in the outer Solar System whose origins may date back almost to the dawn of our Solar System. Image Credit: NASA

NASA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are counting down to tomorrow’s 5:34 a.m. EDT launch of a mighty Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., laden with the ambitious Lucy mission to explore multiple Trojan-class asteroids which lead or trail the orbital path of giant Jupiter. The “Mighty Atlas”—flying in its workhorse “401” configuration, with a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, no solid-fueled strap-on boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage—will lift off from storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41, two hours before sunrise. The mission will kick off a 12-year odyssey for Lucy, which will traverse four billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) and visit some of the most ancient and puzzling worlds in our Solar System.



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Blue Origin's NS-18 Boldly Goes, Delivers Shatner, Crewmates to Threshold of Space

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos applauds as William Shatner clambers out of the Crew Capsule. Photo Credit: Blue Origin

More than a half-century since he first found fame as James Tiberius Kirk, fictional captain of the Starship Enterprise, and now entering his tenth decade of life, William Shatner has reached the final frontier for real and scored a new record as the oldest human being ever to enter space. Aged 90, the veteran Star Trek actor launched atop Blue Origin’s second crew-carrying New Shepard booster at 9:50 a.m. CDT Wednesday from the desolate Launch Site One in the West Texas desert.

The world’s first nonagenarian astronaut flew the ten-minute and 15-second trip to the edge of space shoulder-to-shoulder with Dr. Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Planet Labs, Inc., Glen de Vries of Dassault Systèmes and Blue’s own vice president of mission and flight operations, Audrey Powers. Reportedly, the New Shepard Crew Capsule bearing the world’s four newest astronauts reached an apogee of 351,185 feet, equivalent to 66.51 miles (107.04 kilometers) at the top of their suborbital “arc”, before returning smoothly back to Earth.



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Crew-3 Discusses Upcoming Mission, Names New Dragon 'Endurance'

Crew-3 astronauts (front to rear) Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, Matthias Maurer and Tom Marshburn pose with their Falcon 9 core stage. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Four astronauts representing NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are only three weeks away from their 2:43 a.m. EST launch on 30 October to the International Space Station (ISS). Seasoned spacefarer Tom Marshburn—a veteran of two prior missions and only the second American to have flown the shuttle, Soyuz and Crew Dragon—will be accompanied by “rookies” Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, selectees from NASA’s 2017 astronaut class, and Germany’s Matthias Maurer.



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After Month at Space Station, CRS-23 Dragon Undocks, Heads Home

Twice-flown, the CRS-23 Dragon spent a month at the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA

After a month spent moored at the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX’s CRS-23 Dragon cargo ship has begun its journey back to Earth. The unpiloted craft undocked from International Docking Adapter (IDA)-2—located on the forward-facing end of the station’s Harmony node—at 9:12 a.m. EDT Thursday and is due to splash down off the Florida coast later tonight. Returning home aboard the Cargo Dragon is an estimated 4,600 pounds (2,100 kg) of scientific payloads and experiment results from a wide range of ongoing research activities aboard the multi-national orbital outpost.



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Mighty Atlas Launches Landsat-9, Rideshares to Orbit on First Four-Burn Centaur Mission

Landsat-9 launches at 11:12 a.m. PDT Monday. Photo Credit: ULA

A roll of thunder broke the stillness of a foggy West Coast Monday afternoon, as United Launch Alliance (ULA)’s mighty Atlas V roared aloft from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-3E at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., laden with the Northrop Grumman Corp.-built Landsat-9 payload on behalf of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Liftoff occurred on time at 11:12 a.m. PDT and Landsat-9—the latest in a series of Earth-monitoring and geological surveying spacecraft, whose heritage dates back almost five decades—is headed for insertion into near-polar, Sun-synchronous orbit. For the first time, the Centaur was set to execute four “burns” of its powerful RL10C-1 engine to lift Landsat and four CubeSat rideshare payloads to their desired orbital slots, before deorbiting itself safely at the end of its mission.



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Landsat-9 Ready for Monday Launch, as ULA Flight Manifest Resumes

Encapsulated within its payload fairing, Landsat-9 is readied for transport to the Mobile Service Tower (MST) and installation atop the Atlas V. Photo Credit: ULA

After what has so far been its least-flown year on record, United Launch Alliance (ULA) stands primed to fly a second “Mighty Atlas” of 2021 from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., on Monday afternoon. The “barebones” Atlas V 401 rocket—characterized by a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, no solid-fueled strap-on boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage—is set to rise from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-3E at the West Coast launch site at 11:12 a.m. PDT, at the start of a 30-minute “window”. Primary payload is Landsat-9, flying on behalf of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Tomorrow’s flight also marks the 300th member of the Atlas missile family to originate from Vandenberg since September 1959, marking over six decades of active operational service.



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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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