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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The Limits of Relaxed: Remembering STS-30, Thirty Years On

Thirty years ago, this week, shuttle Atlantis sat patiently primed on Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, only days away from her fourth voyage into orbit. Veteran astronauts Dave Walker, Ron Grabe, Norm Thagard and Mary Cleave, joined by “rookie” spacefarer Mark Lee, were tasked with a four-day mission to deliver the shuttle program’s first interplanetary emissary—the Magellan radar-mapper—onto a multi-year exploration of Venus.

It was the United States’ first visit to the planet labeled Earth’s “twisted sister” since Pioneer Venus Orbiter, a decade earlier, and it was hoped that Magellan would unravel many of the mysteries of a world so alike our own in terms of proximity and physical size, yet so profoundly dissimilar with regard to temperature and atmospheric structure, composition and pressure. Although Magellan occupied the STS-30 astronauts for only the first few hours of their flight, its astonishing legacy was that by the end of the 1990s more detailed maps were available for parts of Venus than for our own Home Planet.



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Questions Galore After SpaceX Crew Dragon Explodes in Testing

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo test vehicle, previously flown on the Demo-1 mission, experienced an explosive anomaly during testing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 20, 2019. Photo Credit: @Astronut099 via Twitter

Yesterday, April 20, at 6:02pm local time, Florida Today published a breaking story by Emre Kelly, with photos by one of their photojournalists, Craig Bailey, of dark, acrid, orange smoke rising from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the first indication that there had been an accident there.

Bailey had been coincidentally covering another assignment, and not long after breaking the story with Kelly, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed via Twitter that there had in fact been an anomaly, and it was during a SpaceX static test fire of the Crew Dragon test article’s Super Draco abort engines at their Landing Zone-1.



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First on the Moon: Looking Back on the Apollo 11 Decision, 50 Years On

Five decades ago, in the first half of 1969, the United States space program was consumed by a single, over-arching goal: to plant American boots on the Moon, by year’s end. It was to be the culmination of a national directive from the late President John F. Kennedy, made in May 1961 in response to the Soviet Union’s successful launch of the first man into space. In Kennedy’s words, the United States was to achieve a manned landing on the lunar surface, “before this decade is out”, and in spite of a multitude of technical troubles and human tragedies—most notably the loss of the three Apollo 1 astronauts during a “plugs-out” launch pad test—significant strides had occurred to bring the goal closer. In December 1968, Americans had flown around the Moon for the first time and only weeks later the complete Apollo spacecraft had been trialed in Earth orbit.



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