Sentinel-6A Michael Freilich Ready for Shipping, Ahead of November Launch

Image Credit: Airbus

With less than six weeks to go before its scheduled launch atop a Falcon 9 booster out of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.—the first SpaceX mission from the West Coast in more than a year—the Sentinel-6A Michael Freilich ocean-monitoring satellite is ready for its long-awaited shipment to the United States. Prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space recently announced that the 2,600-pound (1,190 kg) spacecraft will be loaded aboard a cargo aircraft at Germany’s Munich Airport later this week to begin its transcontinental journey across ten time-zones to reach Vandenberg on the Pacific Coast. Liftoff of the mission, which forms a constituent part of Europe’s Copernicus Earth observation program, is currently targeted for 11:31 a.m. PST (2:31 p.m. EST) on 10 November.



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Northrop Grumman Donates Flight-Proven SRBs to Endeavour Exhibit at CSC

Northrop Grumman will donate a pair of flight-worthy Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) to the Endeavour exhibit at the California Science Center (CSC). Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman Corp.

Northrop Grumman Corp. has announced its intent to donate a pair of flight-worthy Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) to join Space Shuttle Endeavour and a “real” External Tank (ET) at the California Science Center (CSC) in Los Angeles, Calif. When fully erected in an upright position—forming the centerpiece of the CSC’s future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center—the exhibit will mark the world’s only existing “stack” of a genuine shuttle, tank and boosters in their ready-to-launch configuration, anywhere in the world.

“CSC arranged for the boosters to be transported by truck from Promontory, Utah, to storage,” Northrop Grumman’s Kay Anderson told AmericaSpace, “where they will be until CSC is ready to mate them with the orbiter.” Although never flown as a complete SRB “set” on an actual shuttle flight, parts of the two boosters flew on 15 Endeavour missions between 1992 and 2010.



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GEM-63s Stacked, As NROL-101 Processing Continues

The aerodynamic ogive-shaped heads of the GEM-63s are unique only to the Atlas V variant of the boosters. The GEM-63XLs which will fly next year on Vulcan-Centaur possess conical heads. Photo Credit: ULA

As United Launch Alliance (ULA) counts down to next weekend’s targeted flight of a long-delayed Delta IV Heavy—laden with the highly secretive NROL-44 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office—another rocket stands proud at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., targeting a second classified liftoff, later this fall. On Friday, ULA declared that a trio of new-style solid-fueled rocket boosters had been installed around the base of its Atlas V 531 on Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 in readiness for the NROL-101 mission. Of note, the installation occurred exactly seven years to the day since the 531’s most recent launch.



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Rocket Lab Completes WDR Ahead of First Launch from U.S. Soil

Rocket Lab’s Electron Rocket undergoing WDR at LC-2 Wallops Island, VA. Photo: Rocket Lab

This week Rocket Lab completed a ‘Wet Dress Rehearsal’ of their Electron rocket at Launch Complex 2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops Island, Virginia, a major milestone ahead of their first launch from U.S. soil.



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Life on Venus? How Rocket Lab, Breakthrough Initiatives & NASA Plan to Find Out

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket ‘It’s Business Time’ on the pad at LC-1. Rocket Lab wants to use this rocket to launch a Photon probe to Venus as soon as 2023. Photo Credit: Kieran Fanning

Last Monday, an international team of scientists announced one of the most intriguing discoveries in space to date: the molecule phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. This has already led to much discussion and debate. Why? Because on Earth, phosphine can only be produced one of two ways: either artificially in a laboratory or in nature by microbes.



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ULA Now Targeting Midnight Launch of NROL-44 on Sep 26

Launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida on 12 August 2018. Photo Credit: Mike Killian/AmericaSpace

ULA is now targeting the launch of the highly-secretive NROL-44 mission on their mammoth 235-foot-tall (72-meter) Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral no earlier than Sep 26, following two scrubs over the past month, the latter of which being a dramatic hot-fire abort just as the rocket’s engines were lighting up at T-3 seconds on Aug 29.



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SpaceX Scrubs Starlink Launch, Watches Weather for Friday Attempt

Falcon 9 on pad 39A awaiting the next Starlink launch. Photo: Jeff Seibert / AmericaSpace.com

UPDATE – SpaceX has since tweeted that a new launch date will be announced at a later time, due to bad weather at the booster recovery area.

ORIGINAL STORY – Despite a marked improvement of the weather forecast at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Thursday did not prove to be SpaceX’s day to get its latest batch of Starlink internet communications satellites into orbit. Launch was targeted for 2:19 p.m. EDT, but was scrubbed shortly before the planned start of the live webcast for reasons which remain unclear.



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Space Force AEHF-6 Satellite Completes On-Orbit Testing

Illustration of AEHF in orbit. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Earlier this year, ULA launched their first major payload for the U.S. Space Force with the sixth and final member of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) constellation of military communications satellites.

Built by Lockheed Martin and with a “protected communications payload” furnished by Northrop Grumman, AEHF-6 is the capstone of a fleet which will connect civilian leaders with their warfighters all around the world, and late last month the satellite completed on-orbit testing (OOT).



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Weather 60% Go for Thursday Starlink Launch from FL

Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert / AmericaSpace

SpaceX aims to launch a flight-proven Falcon 9 core for the third time in a single calendar year as early as Thursday, as it seeks to deliver another 60-strong batch of Starlink internet communications satellites into low-Earth orbit. Liftoff of the history-making B1058 core—which first saw service to loft the Demo-2 flight of Crew Dragon and kick off “Bob and Doug’s Excellent Adventure” on 30 May, then launched South Korea’s ANASIS-II military communications satellite seven weeks later on 20 July—is targeted from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) no sooner than 2:19 p.m. EDT Thursday.

If it flies on time, B1058 will clock its third launch in just 110 days and will become the fourth Falcon 9 to have logged as many as three missions in 2020.



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Blue Origin Completes SRR, Works 'Seamlessly' Towards Human Lunar Return

The Blue Origin National Team’s Human Landing System (HLS) concept. Image Credit: Blue Origin National Team

The Blue Origin National Team has wrapped up a major milestone as it seeks to develop a Human Landing System (HLS) for America’s next footsteps on the Moon. On Monday, the industrial team—which includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper Labs, led by Kent, Wash.-headquartered Blue Origin—announced that it had completed its critical System Requirements Review (SRR). This is the first “gated milestone” of the team’s effort to develop a HLS to put astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024.

It reflects the successful baselining of key requirements for the mission, vehicles and ground segment, and its completion allows the design to move on to the NASA Certification Baseline Review (CBR), lower-level element SRRs and the preliminary design phase.



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