Falcon 9 Completes Static Fire Test, Targets Thursday Launch of GPS III-05

The fifth Block III Global Positioning System (GPS III-05) satellite undergoes a deployment of one of its twin solar array “paddles” during final checkout at Lockheed Martin’s customized facility, near Denver, Colo., in March 2021. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

SpaceX is gearing up for its third mission of June, following Saturday’s successful Static Fire Test of the once-flown B1062 core stage on storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. Liftoff of the veteran Falcon 9—in what promises to be SpaceX’s fourth consecutive month of 2021 to see at least three launches—is targeted to occur during a 15-minute “window”, which opens at 12:09 p.m. EDT Thursday. Primary payload is the fifth Block III Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite for the U.S. Space Force, destined for Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) at an altitude of about 12,200 miles (20,000 km) above the Home Planet.



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Bezos, Brother to Join Auction Winner on First Crewed New Shepard Flight

The uncrewed NS4 vehicle launches for its first mission in January 2021. It flew a second time in April and is set to carry a crew, including Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark, next month. Photo Credit: Blue Origin

The world’s richest man and his brother will join the winner of an online auction next month for the first crewed suborbital voyage of the New Shepard launch vehicle from West Texas. “Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,” wrote Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in a touching Instagram post Monday. “On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure with my best friend.”



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NASA Announces Long-Awaited Return to Venus with Two Exciting New Discovery Missions

Artist’s concept of DAVINCI+ as it descends through the thick Venusian atmosphere to the surface. It is one of two new NASA missions that will return to Venus for the first time in over 30 years. Image Credit: NASA GSFC visualization by CI Labs Michael Lentz and others

On June 2, NASA announced its selections for two new Discovery Program missions, and the results made Venus fans very happy. Out of four proposals for the next series of planetary missions, NASA picked two of them, and both are going to Venus!



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Veteran Falcon 9 Lifts Powerful SXM-8 Communications Satellite to Orbit

B1061 spears for orbit on SpaceX’s 125th successful mission. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

It was a duty with a difference for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 this morning, as the previously-flown B1061 core took flight a few minutes after midnight to lift a powerful communications satellite on the inaugural leg of its trek up to Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO). The B1061 first stage—whose two previous missions last November and April delivered humans to orbit—was this time tasked with boosting the heavyweight SXM-8 payload on behalf of New York-headquartered online and satellite radio broadcaster SiriusXM.



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Next Atlas V Mission Delayed, As ULA Investigates Anomalous RL-10C Behavior

Although successful, last month’s SBIRS GEO-5 launch atop an Atlas V experienced anomalous behavior with the RL-10C engine of its Centaur upper stage. United Launch Alliance (ULA) seeks a deeper understanding of the issue before committing STP-3 to flight. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

For the second time this year, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has announced a delay to the joint U.S. Space Force/Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Space Test Program (STP)-3 mixed-manifest research and technology mission, scheduled to fly atop the most powerful variant of its Atlas V booster out of Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. In a blog update posted Friday afternoon, the Centennial, Colo.-headquartered organization explained that the cause of the delay was “to evaluate launch vehicle readiness” following anomalous observed behavior of the Centaur upper stage’s RL-10C engine during last month’s SBIRS GEO-5 launch.

A new target date for the mission—previously set to fly on 23 June—has yet to be revealed, with ULA noting only that it is “working with our customer” to determine a new launch opportunity. However, tweeted comments from ULA CEO Tory Bruno seemed to preclude the risk of an “indefinite” delay and the targeted 30 July launch of another Atlas V with the second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station (ISS) appears unaffected by the anomaly.



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SpaceX Launches CRS-22 Cargo Resupply to Space Station, Gears Up for SXM-8 Mission This Weekend

For the first time in 2021, a never-before-used Falcon 9 booster core powers uphill, laden with a Cargo Dragon whose heat shield previously saw service to guard Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken during last year’s Demo-2 re-entry. Photo Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Kevin O’Conne

SpaceX has successfully launched its 17th Falcon 9 of 2021, and with the year barely half-done, it has already eclipsed its entire number of flights in 2019 and looks set to soon pass its all-time personal best of 26 missions set in 2020. A brand-new booster core—tailnumbered “B1067”, the first of its kind to see service in 2021—lifted off from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 1:29:15 p.m. EDT Thursday, carrying the CRS-22 Dragon cargo ship for the International Space Station (ISS).



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As CRS-22 Readies for Thursday Launch, SpaceX, AxiomSpace Plan for Four Missions Through 2023

Measuring 230 feet (70 meters) from tip to tail, the Falcon 9 and its CRS-22 Dragon are trundled horizontally out to Pad 39A on Tuesday. Photo Credit: NASA

As NASA presented a “What’s On Board” briefing ahead of the CRS-22 Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the weather outlook for Thursday’s opening launch attempt is trending slightly downward due to a threat posed by lingering cloud cover and showers. At present, CRS-22—flying as part of the second-round Commercial Resupply Services contract between NASA and SpaceX—is targeted to launch atop a Falcon 9 booster from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 1:29 p.m. EDT Thursday, with a backup opportunity at 1:03 p.m. EDT Friday. At the same time, SpaceX and AxiomSpace, Inc., on Wednesday confirmed plans for four crewed flights to the sprawling multi-national orbital outpost through 2023.



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SpaceX, ULA Primed for Five Launches in June, CRS-22 Dragon Set to Fly Thursday

The CRS-21 Dragon approaches the space station for docking last December. Photo Credit: NASA

Favorable weather looks set to predominate for the first Space Coast launch of June, targeted for 1:29 p.m. EDT Thursday from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). A brand-new Falcon 9—the first time this year that SpaceX will launch a never-before-flown booster—is set to deliver its own brand of fire and thunder when it launches the CRS-22 Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It will kick of an action-packed month, which is expected to see three more Falcon 9s lift the powerful SXM-8 communications satellite for SiriusXM, the fifth Block III member of the Space Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Transporter-2 rideshare mission. And towards the end of June, United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) venerable Atlas V will deliver the Space Test Program (STP)-3 mixed payload aloft.



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SpaceX Crew-3 Mission to Set Records for Youngest, Oldest Station Residents

Kayla Barron participates in Extravehicular Activity (EVA) training in the waters of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) in late 2018. Photo Credit: NASA

Monday’s announcement by NASA that “Artemis Team” member Kayla Barron will fill the fourth and final seat aboard the Crew-3 mission later this fall produces an unusual combination of records for the next U.S. piloted voyage to the International Space Station (ISS).



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ULA Kicks Off Busy Atlas V Manifest with SBIRS GEO-5 Launch

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V ‘421’ rocket lifts off with SBIRS GEO-5 for the U.S Space Force on May 18, 2021. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

Following a one-day scrub due to an “anomalous ground system data” response, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has successfully despatched its first Atlas V mission of 2021. Liftoff of the “Mighty Atlas”—flying in its “421” configuration, with a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, two strap-on boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage—occurred at 1:37 p.m. EDT Tuesday from storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. The booster successfully lofted the fifth Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS GEO-5), which adds combat-readiness to a current four-satellite network of advanced missile early-warning sentinels at geostationary altitude.



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