NASA's OSIRIS-REx Begins Long Journey Home with First-Ever Asteroid Sample from Bennu

Artist’s depiction of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departing the Asteroid Bennu and beginning its long voyage back to Earth. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) mission has completed its in-depth study of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, and has now begun its 2-year journey back to Earth after obtaining the first-ever sample from this primordial body in the Solar System. The return to Earth was the subject of a NASA broadcast yesterday, which was shown on NASA TV, the NASA app and on the NASA website. Don’t worry, if you missed it the first time, you can watch the replay!



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NASA, AxiomSpace Leaders Discuss Historic Ax-1 Space Station Mission

Dragon Resilience is pictured docked to the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this year, spectacularly backdropped by the Moon. Photo Credit: NASA

NASA and AxiomSpace have outlined plans for the first all-private crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), targeted to launch aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon no sooner than January 2022. NASA’s Phil McAlister, Angela Hart and Dana Weigel were joined for Monday’s media teleconference by AxiomSpace President and CEO Mike Suffredini, together with former shuttle astronaut, ISS commander and America’s most experienced spacewalker Mike Lopez-Alegria, who will command the historic Ax-1 mission.



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Historic Cape Launch Pad Observes 125th Launch With First 10x-Flown Falcon 9

B1051 spears skyward for the tenth time. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

SpaceX has achieved its long-sought-after goal of at least ten missions for a single Falcon 9 booster, following Sunday’s pre-dawn liftoff of the veteran B1051 core from storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. Launch occurred on time at 2:42 a.m. EDT and saw B1051 deliver the initial push uphill for another 60 Starlink satellites, bringing its personal tally of these low-orbiting internet providers to 417. Sunday’s flight also marked the 125th launch from SLC-40 since June 1965, a complex whose heritage extends back almost six decades across the Titan III and Titan IV rocket families.



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ULA Primed for 17 May Launch, First of Eight Atlas V Missions for 2021

Containing the SBIRS GEO-5 payload, the Extra-Extended Payload Fairing (XEPF) is readied for hoisting atop the Atlas V last week. Photo Credit: ULA

A busy plate of United Launch Alliance (ULA) missions for the remainder of 2021 continues to take shape, following Friday’s completion of stacking operations of a Mighty Atlas V booster at Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. The final topping-off of the rocket involved installation of the Extra-Extended Payload Fairing (XEPF), with launch targeted for 1:35 p.m. EDT on Monday, 17 May. The mission will deliver the fifth geostationary element of the U.S. Space Force’s Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS GEO-5) to orbit and marks the eighth flight of an Atlas V in its “421” configuration, equipped with a 13-foot-wide (4-meter) fairing, two strap-on solid-fueled boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.



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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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