Blue Origin Targets NET 20 July for First Crewed New Shepard Flight

The New Shepard crew capsule descents via parachute to its West Texas landing site following last month’s flight. Photo Credit: Blue Origin

Sixty years to the day since its Project Mercury namesake became America’s first man in space, Blue Origin announced on Wednesday that its next New Shepard booster will fly later this summer with a six-strong human crew. “On 20 July, New Shepard will fly its first astronaut crew to space,” the Kent, Wash.-headquartered launch provider revealed. “We are offering one seat on this first flight to the winning bidder of an online auction.” It is expected that the NS4 vehicle—the selfsame booster and crew capsule that has reached suborbital space twice this year, most recently just last month—will rise again from Launch Site One in West Texas on the 52nd anniversary of the first human lunar landing.



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Beautiful View: Remembering America's First Astronaut, 60 Years On

Al Shepard is hoisted to safety from his Freedom 7 capsule on 5 May 1961. Photo Credit: NASA

“A damn fine month,” actor Morgan Freeman’s character Ellis “Red” Redding remarked in the movie Shawshank Redemption and, indeed, for America’s space program, the month of May—newly dawned—has long been a historic one for off-the-planet U.S. achievements. Sixty years ago today, on 5 May 1961, the nation saw Alan Shepard become the first American to voyage into space; a short suborbital “hop”, in which he ascended 116.5 miles (187.5 km) in the tiny Freedom 7 capsule, rising from Cape Canaveral and splashing down 15 minutes later in the Atlantic Ocean.



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Record-Tying Falcon 9 Veteran Lofts 25th Batch of Starlink Satellites

Tuesday’s mission marked the 13th Falcon 9 launch of 2021 and the record-tying ninth flight for B1049. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

It may be an unlucky number for some—having visibly impacted America’s third manned lunar landing mission in 1970 and having purportedly been avoided by NASA leadership early in the Space Shuttle Program—but No. 13 proved charmed on Tuesday, as SpaceX pulled off its 13th Falcon 9 flight of the year. The veteran B1049 core, making a record-tying ninth foray into space, roared aloft from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 3:01 p.m. EDT, laden with another 60 Starlink internet communications satellites.



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Crew-1 Completes Night Splashdown, Wraps Up 167-Day Mission

Dragon Resilience splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:56 a.m. EDT Sunday. Photo Credit: NASA

With Sunday’s pre-dawn splashdown of Dragon Resilience after 167 days in orbit, the United States wrapped up not only its first “operational” Commercial Crew rotation mission to the International Space Station (ISS), but also the first oceanic return of the astronaut crew in the hours of darkness in more than half a century. Following almost six months spent living and working aboard the sprawling orbital outpost, Crew-1 Commander Mike Hopkins, Pilot Victor Glover and Mission Specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi completed a smooth hypersonic descent through the atmosphere and a parachute-assisted landing in the Gulf of Mexico, to the south of Panama City, Fla., at 2:56 a.m. EDT.

Between them, they set a raft of impressive records, including the on-orbit swearing-in of the first U.S. Space Force astronaut, the most experienced African-American astronaut, the shortest-tenured ISS Commander and the most experienced Japanese spacewalker.



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Atlas V Fully Stacked, Targets SBIRS GEO-5 Launch NET 17 May

The Common Core Booster (CCB) is raised upright, ahead of emplacement in the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at SLC-41. Photo Credit: ULA

No sooner has the dust settled from the first United Launch Alliance (ULA) mission of 2021—last week’s flight of a Delta IV Heavy from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., laden with the highly classified NROL-82 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office—than a workhorse Atlas V rocket stands waiting in the wings for its own mid-May ride to orbit. Earlier this week, ULA announced that the vehicle had completed initial structural “build-up” in the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), near Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. Currently targeted to launch no sooner than 17 May, the mission will deliver the fifth geostationary-orbiting element of the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS GEO-5) for the U.S. Space Force.



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Falcon 9 Marks 4th Launch in Four Months With Midnight Starlink Mission

Long-exposure image of SpaceX Starlink launch on April 28, 2021 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace.com

Just a quarter-hour shy of midnight in Florida, SpaceX successfully launched its 12th Falcon 9 of the year late Wednesday from historic Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Powering into the night under 1.7 million pounds (770,000 kg) of thrust from her nine Merlin 1D+ engines, the B1060 core stage rose from Earth at 11:44 p.m. EDT, laden with 60 Starlink low-orbiting internet communications satellites.



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NASA's First SLS Moon Rocket Arrives in Florida for Artemis-1 Launch NET Late 2021

The Pegasus barge, bearing the 212-foot-tall (64.6-meter) Core Stage for Artemis-1, has arrived in Florida. At left is the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where the five-segment Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) are awaiting integration with the core. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

After more than a year of testing and last month’s successful full-flight-duration firing of its four RS-25 engines, the gigantic Core Stage for the first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket safely reached Florida on Tuesday. It traveled from NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Miss., to the Space Coast, aboard the 310-foot-long (94.4-meter) Pegasus barge and its long-awaited arrival was captured in stunning imagery by AmericaSpace’s photography team.



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Delta IV Heavy Launches NROL-82, Kicks Off Ambitious 2021 Manifest for ULA

The launch of NROL-82 marks the 60th anniversary of the National Reconnaissance Office in 2021. Photo Credit: ULA

More than four months since its most recent flight, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has kicked off an ambitious—though belated—2021 manifest for its fleet of rockets: the soon-to-be-retired Delta IV Heavy, the workhorse Atlas V and the as-yet-unflown Vulcan-Centaur.

Liftoff of a giant triple-barreled Delta IV Heavy took place from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 1:47 p.m. PDT Monday, carrying the highly secretive NROL-82 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. As well as closing out a lengthy hiatus in flights, today’s on-time launch kindles hopes of rejuvenated activity for the remainder of 2021, with up to ten more missions planned before year’s end.



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Crew-2 Launches, Takes Aim on Space Station for Saturday Arrival

Falcon 9 and Dragon ‘Endeavour’ taking flight from Kennedy Space Center on the Crew-2 mission April 23, 2021 with astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Frenchman Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

Following a 24-hour postponement, due to predicted unfavorable downrange weather, Dragon Endeavour took flight a second time at 5:49 a.m. EDT Friday and is now well underway in her day-long chasedown of the International Space Station (ISS).



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Next GPS Block III Satellite Arrives in Florida, Targets Mid-June Launch

GPS III-05 as it will appear when fully operational in orbit. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

As SpaceX gears up for tomorrow’s 5:49 a.m. EDT Crew-2 launch from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, the fifth Block III Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite has arrived on the Space Coast to begin final preparation for its own Falcon 9 climb to orbit later this summer.



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