SpaceX Kicks Off Ambitious 2020 Manifest with Starlink-2 Launch

Falcon 9 soaring from Cape Canaveral with Starlink-2 for SpaceX on Jan 6, 2019. Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace.com

SpaceX has successfully flown the 80th fully-successful mission of Falcon 9 heritage hardware, with the spectacular Monday evening liftoff of the first U.S. launch of the 2020s. The record-tying, four-times-used B1049 core—teamed with a sparkling-new second stage and laden with a stack of 60 Starlink low-orbiting internet communications satellites—the mission took flight from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., during an instantaneous “window” at 9:19 p.m. EST.

It marks the dawn of what SpaceX anticipates will be an ambitious year, with perhaps more launches in the coming 12 months than ever before, including a new Starlink batch every two weeks.



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SpaceX Falcon 9 Starlink-2 Launch Video

Watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the third batch of Starlink satellites into space.
Launch took place at 9:19pm Eastern 6th Jan 2020 (2:19 GMT on the 7th)
Video credit: SpaceX

SpaceX Poised to Kick Off 2020 With Monday Night Starlink Launch

Eight months after its third launch, B1049 will return to the business of launching satellites on Monday evening, as it kicks off a busy 2020 manifest for SpaceX. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace.com

Sixty more Starlink satellites and the second Falcon 9 core to be used as many as four times are ready to kick off 2020, a year which marks a full decade since SpaceX began flying the earliest iteration of this highly successful fleet of boosters. It was way back in June 2010 that the first Falcon 9 rose ponderously from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., carrying a boilerplate qualification unit for SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship.

Since then, the fleet has evolved through several generations, completed 79 successful missions—including three flights by the mammoth Falcon Heavy—and achieved landings on the decks of oceangoing drone ships and on solid ground. On Monday, SpaceX will attempt to meet an “instantaneous” launch window to put another 60 of its Starlink internet communications satellites into orbit.



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At Its Best: Remembering STS-32, Thirty Years On

Thirty years ago, in January 1990, the Space Shuttle turned a corner. Long touted as a vehicle capable of regular sorties into low-Earth orbit and having captured and repaired satellites to the delight and astonishment of the world, its career was forever dented by the tragic loss of Challenger and the painful years of introspection which followed. Yet having triumphantly returned to flight in September 1988, the shuttle had conducted several highly successful missions and had begun to re-cement its credentials. And when STS-32 Commander Dan Brandenstein and his crew roared to orbit on 9 January 1990, their 11-day flight would achieve satellite deployment, rendezvous and retrieval and a new empirical record for the longest shuttle mission to date. As the Capcom remarked when Columbia returned safely to Earth, STS-32 “showed the shuttle at its best”.



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Picture of Santa: Remembering Discovery's Date With Hubble, 20 Years On (Part 2)

The STS-103 astronauts were the only Space Shuttle crew to celebrate Christmas in orbit, way back in 1999. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, seven astronauts spent Christmas Day in space, peering from the windows of shuttle Discovery. STS-103 in December 1999 marked the only occasion in the shuttle program’s three decades of service that a mission took place entirely over the festive period. As outlined in last weekend’s AmericaSpace history article, a yuletide flight in the final days before the new millennium was not the original plan, but technical woes with the shuttle fleet and with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)—Discovery’s primary objective—during the course of 1999 had pushed STS-103 into high priority.



Continue reading Picture of Santa: Remembering Discovery’s Date With Hubble, 20 Years On (Part 2)

Starliner OFT Returns Safely, Hits Numerous Objectives Despite Missing ISS

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner after it landed in White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. The landing completes an abbreviated Orbital Flight Test for the company that still meets several mission objectives for NASA’s Commercial Crew program. Photo Credit: NASA

This morning, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner returned to Earth and made a picture-perfect landing at White Sands, NM, closing out the spacecraft’s maiden voyage on the highly-anticipated un-crewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

And while the mission was cut short due to an automated timing issue after launch, which caused ground controllers to call off a rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS), Starliner teams were able to hit numerous other test objectives, including passing the most critical with flying colors; de-orbit, re-entry and landing.



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Power and Speed: Remembering Discovery's Date With Hubble, 20 Years On (Part 1)

Orbital sunrise causes the solar arrays of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to glisten in this spectacular view from STS-103. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, as the world neared the dawn of a new millennium, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) circled the globe in urgent need of servicing and repair. By December 1999, NASA’s $1.5 billion scientific showpiece had been in orbit for almost a full decade and had been successfully overhauled, upgraded and recovered from its blurred vision thanks to the efforts of two Space Shuttle crews; in return, it had contributed enormously to humanity’s understanding of the cosmos. A third shuttle servicing was planned for June 2000, but a dramatic spate of Hubble failures the previous year conspired to bring that date much sooner. And on STS-103, which finally flew in December 1999, shuttle astronauts would celebrate Christmas in space for the first and only time.



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Starliner Misses ISS After Flawless Launch, Aims at Other Test Objectives Before Return Sunday

ULA’s workhorse Atlas V rocket, flying in a human-rated configuration, launches Boeing’s first Starliner crew capsule on its un-crewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA. While the launch was flawless, an automated timing issue caused Starliner to reach orbit but miss the ISS. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

At 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, ULA’s human-rated Atlas V rocket set sail from Cape Canaveral with Boeing’s first CST-100 Starliner space capsule and kicked off its long-awaited maiden voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) on the un-crewed Orbital Flight Test. But while the launch itself went off flawlessly into the morning twilight, an automated timing issue on Boeing’s Starliner caused the spacecraft to achieve orbit but miss the ISS.

However all is not lost, not by a longshot. Automated docking at the ISS is not a mandatory requirement for NASA to certify either the Starliner or SpaceX Crew Dragon. Currently in a stable orbit, Boeing will still hit many of the test objectives for the mission, including one of the most critical: de-orbit, re-entry and landing, now scheduled for Sunday morning at White Sands, New Mexico.



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Boeing Starliner Launch Video

Watch the Launch of the Atlas V carrying the Boeing Starliner to the ISS.
Launch took place at 6:36am Eastern (11:36 GMT)

For more details visit our Launch Tracker.

Weather 80% GO, Watch Mighty Atlas Launch Starliner Orbital Flight Test at 6:36am EST

Boeing’s STARLINER ready for launch atop a ULA Atlas V rocket on an un-crewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA to and from the International Space Station. Liftoff is targeting 6:36am EST Friday. Photo: Troy McClellan

After a decade in development, Boeing stands ready for the highly-anticipated un-crewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) of its CST-100 Starliner on Friday, 20 December. The conical spacecraft—whose design bears more than a passing resemblance to NASA’s Apollo Command Module (CM)—will rise from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 6:36 a.m. EST, to kick off a week-long mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Its flight will provide “real (off)-world” experience for this second of two Commercial Crew vehicles that will begin ferrying astronauts to the space station as soon as mid 2020, and will mark the first flight of a human-capable vehicle aboard a “Mighty Atlas” since Project Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper’s Faith 7 mission, way back in May 1963.



Continue reading Weather 80% GO, Watch Mighty Atlas Launch Starliner Orbital Flight Test at 6:36am EST