SpaceX Launches Fourth Starlink Mission of March

B1060 rises into the darkness at 4:28 a.m. EDT Wednesday, turning night into instantaneous day across the Space Coast. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

SpaceX has for the first time flown a fourth batch of Starlink low-orbiting internet communications satellites within the span of a single month, having launched a previously-used Falcon 9 booster from storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canavderal Space Force Station, Fla., at 4:28 a.m. EDT Wednesday.



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Mysterious NROL-82 Mission Completes WDR, Aims for Spring Launch

Delta IV Heavy hardware for the classified NROL-82 mission is currently being readied for a Spring 2021 launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Photo Credit: ULA

More than three months since its most recent mission, United Launch Alliance (ULA) plans to fly another gargantuan Delta IV Heavy rocket later this spring to deliver the highly secretive NROL-82 payload to orbit on behalf of the National Reconnaissance Office. Earlier this week, the Centennial, Colo.-headquartered organization announced that it had completed a customary Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) of the triple-barreled booster at Space Launch Complex (SLC)-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. A precise launch date for ULA’s 13th Delta IV Heavy flight and its 31st mission for the National Reconnaissance Office will be determined closer to the time.



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NASA Conducts Successful Second Test Fire of SLS Moon Rocket Core Stage

Astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Zena Cardman (right, taking a selfie) at NASA’s second test fire of the SLS moon rocket core stage at Stennis Space Center. Today’s Hot Fire Test ran to 8 minutes and 19.6 seconds. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

With a thunderous roar, four ex-Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) which will soon help propel the world’s most powerful rocket came spectacularly to life for eight beautiful minutes Thursday afternoon, in a second critical Hot Fire Test of the first Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage. The four engines, which saw extensive refurbishment after 1.1 million seconds’ worth of “burn-time” on a combined 25 shuttle flights, ignited as planned within a few hundredths of a second of each other at 4:37 p.m. EDT on the historic B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Bay St. Louis, Miss.



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Watch NASA Test Fire America's SLS Moon Rocket Today

NASA is set for a second test fire of the agency’s SLS moon rocket core stage at 3:00pm EDT on March 18, 2021 atop the B-2 test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Photo: NASA

NASA and Boeing are set to conduct a second test fire today of the giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage, which will launch the first lunar mission of the agency’s Artemis program early next year with the Orion spacecraft on an un-crewed flight test to the moon and back, as America aims to land humans on the moon again in the coming years.



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'Serious Problems Here': Remembering Gemini VIII, OTD in 1966 (Part 2)

Gemini VIII’s nose edges into the docking collar of the Agena target. Although this mission achieved a successful rendezvous and docking, it fell victim to violent oscillations, due to a stuck-on thruster, which almost cost Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott their lives. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty-five years ago, this week, NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott—the only Gemini crew who would both someday walk on the Moon—accomplished a key goal in America’s bid to land a man on the Moon by successfully rendezvousing and docking with an unmanned Agena-D target vehicle in Earth orbit.

Gemini VIII marked the first time that a manned vehicle had achieved physical contact with another target in space. However, the situation aboard Gemini VIII was far from perfect and, in the hours after Armstrong and Scott accomplished their core objective, would dramatically worsen to the point that the astronauts almost lost their lives.



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'Really a Smoothie': Remembering Gemini VIII, OTD in 1966 (Part 1)

Neil Armstrong (left) and Dave Scott sought to fulfil many of the objectives needed to reach the Moon, including orbital rendezvous and docking. They were the only Gemini crew whose two members both walked on the Moon in their later careers. Photo Credit: NASA

At the dawn of 1966, America’s drive to land a man on the Moon had accelerated into high gear. Five Gemini crews had shown that astronauts could survive in space for long enough to complete the journey and that it was possible to venture outside in a pressurized suit and perfect the tricky technique of orbital rendezvous. All would someday be critical in enabling the first steps on another world. On Gemini VIII in March 1966, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott sought to press the envelope still further.



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SpaceX Launches 9x-Flown Booster on Third Starlink Mission in Ten Days

B1051 becomes the first Falcon 9 core to complete a ninth mission. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

For only the second time, SpaceX has launched a third batch of Starlinks in a single month, following Sunday’s rousing 6:01 a.m. EDT liftoff of a previously-flown Falcon 9 booster from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. It was the eighth mission of 2021 for the Hawthorne, Calif.-headquartered launch services provider, bringing to 370 the total number of these flat-packed internet communications satellites placed into orbit since the start of the year. The B1051 first-stage core, making a record-breaking ninth launch, has now lifted more Starlinks than any other Falcon 9.



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'Out on Parole': Remembering STS-29, OTD in 1989

Discovery rockets into orbit on STS-29 in March 1989. Photo Credit: NASA

Flying in space, remembered astronaut John Blaha—who began the first of his five missions on this day, way back in 1989—vanished in the flicker of an eye. On 13 March 1989, Blaha and his four crewmates launched aboard shuttle Discovery on the relatively “vanilla” STS-29 flight to deliver a major NASA communications satellite into space.

Seated in the pilot’s seat, alongside future Johnson Space Center (JSC) Director Mike Coats, Blaha was joined by Mission Specialists Bob Springer, Jim Buchli and Jim Bagian. Most of the crew had been recycled from a pre-Challenger assignment to a flight which might have seen the first citizens of Indonesia and the UK to travel into space.



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ULA, SpaceX Win Four National Security Missions in FY23

With this week’s announcement, Vulcan-Centaur, as-yet-unflown, will launch four USSF or NROL missions in the next two years. Image Credit: ULA

United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX will deliver four major National Security Space Launch (NSSL) missions to orbit during Fiscal Year 2023 on behalf of the U.S. Space Force and the National Reconnaissance Office. Contracts totaling $385 million were announced by the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., on Tuesday. They bring the total number of dedicated USSF and NROL missions slated to ride atop the Delta IV Heavy, the Atlas V, the Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy and the as-yet-unflown Vulcan-Centaur in the next few years to 18.



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Serendipitous Juno Discovery Suggests Zodiacal Light Caused by Dust from Mars

The zodiacal light is seen as a faint glow that extends upwards just before dawn or just after dusk. Scientists thought the dust that causes it came from asteroids or comets, but now new data from the Juno mission suggests the dust originated on Mars. Photo Credit: A. Fitzsimmons/ESO/Wikipedia

A team of scientists with NASA’s Juno mission have made a surprising discovery regarding a phenomenon that you may have seen yourself sometimes – the zodiacal light. That faint glow in the sky, visible just before dawn or just after dusk, is caused by dust that is orbiting the Sun in the zodiacal cloud.



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