Record-Setting Falcon 9 Launches First 60 Starlink Satellites to Orbit

For the fourth time in 2019, SpaceX launched in the hours of darkness late Thursday, 23 May, to deliver its first 60 Starlink communications satellites into low-Earth orbit. Tipping the scales in excess of 30,000 pounds (13,620 kg)—the heaviest payload ever lofted by the Hawthorne, Calif.-headquartered launch services organization, according to CEO Elon Musk—the Upgraded Falcon 9 booster roared aloft from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 10:30 p.m. EDT. Launch occurred right on the opening of Thursday night’s 90-minute “window”, following a pair of 24-hours scrub last week, due to high winds at altitude and a need to update the Starlink software load.



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First Flyby Science Results of 2014 MU69 Published by New Horizons Team

Composite high-resolution view of 2014 MU69, as seen by New Horizons on Jan. 1, 2019. Photo Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute//Roman Tkachenko

The first science results from the flyby of 2014 MU69 by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft have now been published, revealing more details about one the strangest objects in our Solar System.



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To 'Simply' Land: Remembering Apollo 10, 50 Years On (Part 1)

Five decades ago, this week, Americans could almost taste the Moon, as the days drew closer to landing a human on its dusty surfaceand honoring a national pledge from the late President John F. Kennedy. Already, in December 1968—on only the second manned flight of the Apollo spacecraft—U.S. astronauts had triumphantly voyaged to lunar orbit and in May 1969 efforts were well underway to test the Command and Service Module (CSM) and Lunar Module (LM) around the Moon for the first time.

Apollo 10, crewed by Commander Tom Stafford, Command Module Pilot (CMP) John Young and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Gene Cernan, would be nothing less than a full dress rehearsal for the first manned landing on another world. And aboard their LM, Stafford and Cernan would approach the lunar surface and draw as close as nine miles (15 km). By the time Apollo 10 returned to Earth, a significant hurdle in enabling American boots on the Moon was gone.



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SpaceX Readies First Batch of Starlink Satellites for Wednesday Night Launch

If you believe Elon Musk, the first baby-steps on the journey to Mars begin late Wednesday evening from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The SpaceX CEO has made no secret of the fact that he intends to transform humanity into a spacefaring civilization—with the fabrication of a permanently-inhabited base on the Red Planet his ultimate personal goal—and expects part of the financial base for that endeavor to come from the Starlink flotilla of low-Earth-orbiting internet communications satellites.

When the next Upgraded Falcon 9 lights up the night sky along the Space Coast on Wednesday, it will deliver 60 of these smallsat-class satellites into space to begin what Mr. Musk expects will revolutionize low-cost broadband internet provision. In Twitter comments provided late Saturday, the SpaceX CEO noted that the five-dozen-strong swarm of satellites were “flat-packed” into the booster’s payload fairing, with no dispenser.



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'It's Been A Long Way': Remembering the Return of the Rookie, 50 Years On

Fifty years ago, as the United States and the world stood on the cusp of launching the first humans to the surface of another world, a strange thing happened. By May 1969, three astronauts had already reached and circled the Moon, another three were only days away from conducting a full dress rehearsal of the complete Apollo spacecraft in lunar orbit and yet others were deep into training to walk on its dusty surface. Then, on 7 May 1969, NASA made an announcement which would lead to one of the Mercury Seven—America’s inaugural class of astronauts—actually setting foot on the Moon.

The astronaut concerned was 45-year-old Alan Shepard, the first U.S. spacefarer, and his unexpected return to flight status and eventually command of Apollo 14, the third manned lunar landing mission, would mark him out to be the oldest human ever to walk on the lunar terrain. But with only 15 minutes’ of previous spaceflight experience, Shepard’s qualification for Apollo 14 was regarded with some scepticism. On one occasion, when veteran astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad saw Shepard, he offered the tongue-in-cheek remark: “Here comes the rookie!”



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“What a Beautiful View”: Remembering America’s First Man in Space, OTD in 1961

In the half-hour between 9:30 and 10 a.m. EDT on this day in 1961, the United States came literally to a standstill. A Philadelphia appeals court judge interrupted all proceedings to make an announcement; free champagne flowed in taverns; traffic slowed on California freeways; and people danced and sang in Times Square. Even the new president, John F. Kennedy—barely four months into his administration and only a few weeks away from making one of the most pivotal speeches of the 20th century—could only watch dumbstruck from his office in the White House, as he beheld the view on a television screen.

For on 5 May 1961, America’s love story with the human exploration of space really began, when its first astronaut rode a converted U.S. Army Redstone missile on a suborbital “hop” into history. And as JFK stood in his secretary’s office, having just broken up a meeting of the National Security Council, his hands were shoved deep into his pockets as he witnessed the pioneering voyage of Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr.



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SpaceX Launches Late-Night Dragon CRS-17 to Space Station

SpaceX launched Dragon CRS-17 to the International Space Station at 2:48am Eastern time on May 4, 2019, under a crystal clear moonless sky from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

At the start of 2019’s fifth month, SpaceX has successfully launched its fifth mission of the year, with a spectacular pre-dawn liftoff of an Upgraded Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Lighting up the darkened sky along the shores of the Space Coast, the 230-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket—its Block 5 core tail-numbered “B1056” and making its maiden flight—departed Earth during an “instantaneous” window at 2:48:15 a.m. EDT Saturday and smoothly delivered the CRS-17 Dragon cargo ship into low-Earth orbit to begin a two-day pursuit of the International Space Station (ISS).

This particular Dragon had previously seen service on the CRS-12 mission in August 2017 and marked the sixth occasion in under two years that one of SpaceX’s cargo ships had made a repeat flight to the ISS. Current plans are for Dragon to return to Earth at the end of May and, when combined with the 34 days logged from CRS-12, this particular spacecraft is expected to total around two months off the planet across its two missions.



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NASA Prepares for MBSU Replacement on Thursday; SpaceX Eyes Friday for CRS-17 Dragon Launch

SpaceX stands primed for its fifth launch of the year when the CRS-17 Dragon cargo mission heads to the International Space Station (ISS) in the small hours of Friday morning (3 May). Liftoff of the Upgraded Falcon 9 is scheduled to occur from historic Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 3:11 a.m. EDT.

Launch was routinely postponed from 26 to 30 April, then an additional 24 hours to 1 May, due in part to a delayed Static Fire Test of the nine Merlin 1D+ first-stage engines. It was subsequently delayed a further two days following an issue with the station’s Electrical Power System (EPS), discovered early Monday, 29 April.



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NASA Finds Supplier Lied, Used Faulty Materials in $700 Million+ Loss of Two Missions

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory and its Taurus booster lift off Feb. 24, 2009 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 4:55 a.m. EST. The mission was lost not long after, now determined to be caused by a supplier who lied about tests and certifications, providing faulty materials which led to the loss of this and the Glory mission in 2011. Photo: NASA

A years-long technical investigation by NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) has concluded that two important science missions lost in 2009 and 2011, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Glory, were not only caused by faulty materials provided by aluminum manufacturer Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI), but also found that the company altered test results and even completely falsified certifications.



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SpaceX CRS-17 Slips to May 3, Still Hush About Blowing Up Crew Capsule

UPDATE – On April 29, the space station team identified an issue with one of the station’s Main Bus Switching Units that distributes power to two of the eight power channels on the station. There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station. Teams are working on a plan to robotically replace the failed unit and restore full power to the station system. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. The earliest possible launch opportunity is no earlier than Friday, May 3.

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ORIGINAL STORY – SpaceX stands primed for its fifth launch of the year when the next Dragon cargo mission heads to the International Space Station (ISS) in the small hours of Wednesday morning (1 May). Liftoff of the Upgraded Falcon 9 is scheduled to occur from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 3:59 a.m. EDT.



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