SpaceX Flies 90th Falcon 9, Resumes Starlink Launch Cadence

SpaceX’s 13th Falcon 9 of the year proved charmed as it powered smoothly into the night. Photo Credit: Mike Killian/AmericaSpace

It might seem fitting for a mission snakebitten by the gods of ill-fortune, but the spectacular middle-of-the-night liftoff of SpaceX’s 90th Falcon 9 at 1:12 a.m. EDT Friday also marked its 13th launch in this most unfortunate year of 2020. And it marked the resumption of launches of the Hawthorne, Calif.-based organization’s home-grown Starlink internet communications satellites into low-Earth orbit after almost two months of hiatus.

In the first half of the year, no fewer than seven “batches” of Starlinks—a total of 418 satellites—were boosted smoothly into orbit, in some cases as frequently as twice per month. Unfortunately, the eighth mission succumbed to no fewer than three scrubbed launch attempts thanks to weather and technical troubles, before finally roaring aloft tonight.



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NASA's Lucy Mission On Track for 2021 Launch

NASA’s long-awaited Lucy mission to conduct flyby explorations of multiple Trojan asteroids which either lead or trail the orbital path of giant Jupiter has been officially green-lighted to enter its Assembly, Test and Launch Operations (ATLO) phase, following last week’s successful conclusion of the Systems Integration Review (SIR). Selected alongside the Psyche asteroid mission in January 2017 as part of NASA’s low-cost Discovery Program, Lucy will begin a 12-year odyssey into deep space when it rises from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster in October 2021. And although many missions have flown past and even orbited multiple celestial targets, none will achieve as many encounters as Lucy.



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New Discoveries of 'Shallow Lightning' and Ammonia Hail 'Mushballs' on Jupiter Highlight Ninth Anniversary of Juno Launch

Artist’s illustration of high-altitude shallow lightning in water-ammonia clouds on Jupiter. NASA’s Juno spacecraft has discovered evidence for the phenomenon using its Stellar Reference Unit. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Heidi N. Becker/Koji Kuramura

Today, Aug. 5, 2020, marks nine years since the launch of Juno, a spacecraft that has revolutionized our knowledge of the largest planet in the Solar System: Jupiter. Ever since Juno arrived at Jupiter and entered orbit on July 5, 2016, it has helped to answer some questions but also revealed new surprises.



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Like An Animal: Hurley, Behnken Reflect on Historic Dragon Endeavour Mission

Dragon Endeavour crewmen Doug Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken are pictured during their helicopter flight to Pensacola Naval Air Station on Sunday. Photo Credit: NASA

Only days after their triumphant return to Earth, and the first splashdown of a U.S. astronaut crew since the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), a fit and healthy Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have described the “humbling experience” of returning American citizens to space aboard an American spacecraft, atop an American rocket, and from American soil, since the end of the Space Shuttle Program. In comments provided from NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday, the two veteran astronauts—both of whom wrapped up the third space voyages of their respective careers—outlined their surprise at the flawless performance of Dragon Endeavour, the dynamism of their re-entry through the atmosphere and their first experiences back on the Home Planet.



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Snakebitten Falcon 9 Mission Targets Friday Launch

Scrubbed on three occasions in late June and early July, will Friday, 7 August be “fourth time lucky” for the hapless Starlink/BlackSky mission? Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

Having already seen seven batches of Starlinks launched in the first six months of the year—a total of 418 satellites all told—it could hardly be imagined that we space-watchers would grow to miss the regular cadence of these low-orbiting internet communications providers roaring skyward atop SpaceX Falcon 9s from the Space Coast. But the next launch, scheduled to occur from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), no sooner than 1:12 a.m. EDT Friday, 7 August, will be the first such mission in almost two months. And with an unenviable three launch scrubs on its record, the long-awaited Starlink/BlackSky mission almost appears snakebitten by the gods of cruel fortune.



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Demo-2 Success Lays Groundwork for Future Commercial Crew Missions

SpaceX fast boats approach Dragon Endeavour’s targeted splashdown point in the Gulf of Mexico in the seconds prior to Hurley and Behnken’s 2:48 p.m. EDT Sunday landing. Photo Credit: NASA

Yesterday’s successful return of Dragon Endeavour crewmen Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken after almost 64 days in space—of which 62 were spent aboard the International Space Station (ISS)—and 1,024 orbits draws down the curtain on the first mission of the Commercial Crew era. For the first time in history, humans have launched aboard a commercially-developed spacecraft and atop a commercially-provided rocket, and “Bob and Doug’s Excellent Adventure” closed out Sunday afternoon with the first oceanic splashdown of a U.S. crew since the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) in July 1975. Their return to Earth comes only days after the Falcon 9 booster for the Crew-1 mission arrived in Florida for processing and a multi-national team of four astronauts from the United States, Japan and France were assigned to the Crew-2 flight, slated to launch early next spring.



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Dragon Endeavour Splashes Down, Makes First U.S. Oceanic Return in 45 Years

Dragon Endeavour splashes down at 2:48 p.m. EDT Sunday. Photo Credit: NASA

After almost 64 days in space, “Bob and Doug’s Excellent Adventure” ended in fine style on Sunday afternoon, as Dragon Endeavour made a smooth 2:48 p.m. EDT splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Pensacola, Fla. Demo-2 crewmen Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who launched last 30 May, spent a total of 62 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS), working alongside Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy and his Russian crewmates Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Whilst there, they supported dozens of research experiments, served as on-orbit plumbers, maintenance men and computer wizards and were instrumental in completing four sessions of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) to replace outdated nickel-hydrogen batteries in the station’s S-6 truss with smaller, lighter and more capable lithium-ion units.



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Landing in The Drink: Remembering America’s Oceanic Returns from Space (Part 2)

Bearing astronauts Tom Stafford, Vance Brand and Deke Slayton, the command module descends to splashdown on 24 July 1975 following the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), America’s most recent landing at sea following a manned space mission. Photo Credit: NASA

Tomorrow afternoon, Dragon Endeavour crewmen Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will wrap up a hugely successful eight-week voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) by becoming the first U.S. astronauts to land in the ocean since the end of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) on 24 July 1975. At the time of writing, the pair are scheduled to undock from the station tonight, with splashdown expected in the Atlantic Ocean around mid-afternoon Sunday. Launched on 30 May atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster, Hurley and Behnken will become the 32nd crew of Americans to return from space in this fashion. All astronauts in the intervening years have landed on terra firma either aboard the now-retired Space Shuttle—as Hurley and Behnken did earlier in their careers—or aboard Russia’s Soyuz. In this second look-back at the history of oceanic landings, AmericaSpace focuses today upon Apollo, whose astronauts returned to Earth faster, hotter and from greater distances than any of their Mercury or Gemini predecessors.



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Landing in The Drink: Remembering America's Oceanic Returns from Space (Part 1)

Crew Dragon prototype recovered just offshore of its launch site. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

On Sunday afternoon, if weather permits, America will execute its first landing of astronauts in the ocean for almost five decades. Dragon Endeavour crewmen Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken—who launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on 30 May—are due to undock from the sprawling orbital outpost late tomorrow and hit the waters of the Atlantic Ocean mid-afternoon EDT on Sunday, 2 August. Not since the harrowing return of Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) crewmen Tom Stafford, Vance Brand and Deke Slayton on 24 July 1975 have U.S. astronauts returned to an oceanic landing; all others alighted on terra firma in the now-retired Space Shuttle or aboard Russia’s Soyuz. Hurley and Behnken will be the 32nd American crew to land in “the drink”, and looking back on those astronauts of yesteryear offers a sobering reminder of the immense hazards involved.



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Hurley, Behnken Ready for First U.S. Splashdown Since Apollo-Soyuz

Descending beneath its parachutes, just like the mockup did on the May 2015 pad abort test, Crew Dragon will complete its mission on Saturday with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. Photo Credit: Mike Killian/AmericaSpace

After two months aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Dragon Endeavour astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will bid farewell to their Expedition 63 crewmates Chris Cassidy, Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner on Saturday and undock from the sprawling orbital outpost for their return to Earth on Sunday afternoon. Current plans are for Hurley and Behnken to participate in a short farewell ceremony with Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner shortly after 9 a.m. EDT Saturday morning, before hatches between the station and their Crew Dragon are closed for departure.

According to NASA, teams are continuing to monitor the progress of Category 1 Hurricane Isaias and evaluating impacts to weather, with seven potential splashdown locations identified off Florida’s east and west coasts. Early Friday morning, Isaias was tracked about 45 miles (70 km) off the southeastern tip of the Bahamas. NASA and SpaceX will make a decision on the primary splashdown location about six hours before Saturday’s undocking.



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