The launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 that was originally planned for this morning has been rescheduled to today, May 11th at 6:46 am Eastern Time.
The original launch date was moved back due to bad weather and technical issues with the rocket but now it’s back on schedule to take place as scheduled today around 11 AM ET. The craft will be taking off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and headed toward geostationary transfer orbit where it will deliver the satellite SES-11/EchoStar 105, into space.
1) United Launch Alliance Atlas V Anomaly
It happened again, folks. After its Delta IV rocket failed to launch a National Reconnaissance Office satellite in 2010, United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V experienced another anomaly Sunday when an upper stage engine did not deploy properly. The flight originated from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and was bound for geosynchronous transfer orbit, carrying a pair of satellites to track global maritime traffic. In a statement, ULA said: Atlas V did exactly what it was designed to do. The rocket’s next mission is scheduled for March 1 out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California; no further details are available at present.
At present, there is no word as to whether or not the mission will be re-flown. The Atlas V is slated to conduct at least seven more missions before 2018’s end. The most notable upcoming flight is March 1 when ULA will launch Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo vessel to resupply astronauts aboard International Space Station (ISS). Orbital ATK has a $1.9 billion contract for eight resupply missions using its unmanned Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft. NASA recently awarded contracts for six additional Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) flights from 2019 through 2024, though it remains to be seen which launch providers will handle those missions.
Atlas V has been designed to be flexible. According to ULA, All Atlas V configurations are supported by a common integrated core vehicle. For Sunday’s flight, that meant twin solid rocket boosters and a dual-engine Centaur upper stage. The rocket’s first stage is built by Lockheed Martin; its second stage is built by ATK. Boeing manufactures a single-engine for Centaur, which is operated by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The Delta IV uses all three companies’ hardware in its configurations: United Launch Alliance says it uses either Aerojet Rocketdyne or Orbital ATK propulsion in its first stage and Pratt & Whitney engines (manufactured by United Technologies) in either one or two of its RS-68A main engines.
2) Blue Origin Launches New Shepard
Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, launched its latest New Shepard rocket again. This was the first launch since a dramatic in-flight anomaly that destroyed a previous New Shepard rocket and its crew capsule during an April test flight. Today’s mission did not include any passengers. The New Shepard rockets are designed to eventually take paying customers into suborbital space in much shorter trips than SpaceX’s Starman could manage. NASA astronauts could one day travel on these rockets as well. Blue Origin is also developing a large rocket called New Glenn to launch satellites and other payloads into orbit around Earth and beyond—but it won’t be ready for years yet.
Blue Origin has been quieter than SpaceX in recent years, but both companies have big plans to expand human access to space. SpaceX is still recovering from a high-profile explosion last year that destroyed a rocket and its satellite payload during a routine fueling procedure but is still pressing ahead with ambitious manned missions into orbit. Boeing and SpaceX are developing crew capsules for NASA under contracts that could be worth up to $6.8 billion—the first flights could take place as early as next year. Blue Origin has similar ambitions: it’s developing a crew capsule called New Shepard that will one day carry people beyond suborbital space. When completed, it will be capable of carrying six passengers higher than 62 miles (100 kilometres) above Earth—higher than any other commercial spacecraft in development today.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifts off from Texas again. Jeff Bezos is planning on taking humans into space, too. (Blue Origin) This mission was a test flight without passengers, but one day Blue Origin could launch paying customers like SpaceX is already doing. Blue Origin has not announced any official plans to carry people yet, but we know it’s developing hardware to take them beyond suborbital space: its New Shepard crew capsule is designed to eventually be able to carry six passengers higher than 62 miles (100 kilometres) above Earth—higher than any other commercial spacecraft in development today. It can seat up to four astronauts inside its reusable crew capsule as well as a fifth astronaut in an unpressurized cargo bay.
3) Ariane 5 Mission Delayed Again
European launch provider Arianespace has delayed its next Ariane 5 mission after several months of successful launches. The new launch date is now set for May 27th, 2018 at 6:30 pm EST from French Guiana. The primary payload for flight VA238 is Intelsat 37e, a communications satellite for Intelsat S.A., along with onboard passengers Azerspace-2/Intelsat 38 and GSAT-17. Flight VA239 will be Arianespace’s third launch from both Spaceport in French Guiana and from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in South America since resuming flights following a Soyuz anomaly last year.
Launches have been going smoothly for Arianespace since a Soyuz launch failure in late October caused an additional month’s delay. The company launched four flights in November and has successfully performed three Ariane 5 launches in 2018, all from French Guiana. It also delivered a dual mission last month – launching both ViaSat-2 and Eutelsat 172B on one rocket. Other upcoming launches will include more than 20 satellites to be flown by Arianespace for both government and commercial customers.
The new mission will now take place around 6:30 pm EST on May 27th from French Guiana, deploying Intelsat 37e along with its onboard passengers Azerspace-2/Intelsat 38 and GSAT-17. At liftoff, Ariane 5’s total payload lift performance will be 10,730 kg., shared between all three passengers. This includes a combined total for both satellites of approximately 9,000 kg., as well as launch service satellite dispensers (3,730 kg.). The second passenger – Azerspace-2/Intelsat 38 – is to be deployed approximately 26 minutes after liftoff into an elliptical geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). It is then to circularize its orbit at an altitude of 35 722 km., inclined 25.5 degrees toward Earth’s equator.
4) Dnepr Launches from Dombarovsky Cosmodrome
Dnepr Launches from Dombarovsky Cosmodrome April 16, 2013, The Government of Ukraine has deployed a Dnepr carrier rocket carrying its first geostationary orbit satellite. Liftoff took place at 14:32 UTC from Area 88 in Dombarovsky. The primary payload was Ekspress-AM6, a telecommunications satellite built by RKK Energia to provide services to Russia and neighbouring countries. The launch success also carried 29 small satellites into orbit including Arion 1, GOMX-1, Horyu 1, Hawk AIM and Spacebee x 2. This launch marks the 30th flight for the Dnepr rocket program which began back in 1999 when it launched the Start 1 satellite for Russia’s Ministry of Defence.
Dnepr is a three-stage liquid-propellant carrier rocket developed by Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. The first stage consists of a central tank containing Kerosene and liquid oxygen oxidizer and six outboard boosters attached to it which carry only fuel. The second stage is powered by two engines also burning Kerosene and liquid oxygen, while the third stage is powered by one engine fueled by Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and nitrogen tetroxide (NTO). Once launched into the suborbital trajectory, the first two stages and boosters separate from the third stage which then ignites its single-engine and continues into space.
Currently, two variants of the Dnepr rocket are available. The original variant has a liftoff mass of 485 tonnes and is capable of launching 1.1 tonnes into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. A modified version designated as Dnepr-1K boosted its payload capacity to 1.5 tonnes which was achieved by replacing one engine in each first-stage booster with a more powerful one derived from a Russian strategic missile called Topol-M, increasing propellant load onboard boosters and employing lighter payload fairing for Ekspress AM4 satellite carried aboard earlier missions. This modified version can be identified by the additional K appearing after designation in its name.
5) Russian Government Sticks To Plan For RD-180-Powered ULA Atlas V
United Launch Alliance (ULA) will use Russian-built RD-180 engines to launch next-generation Vulcan Centaur rockets from Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, as originally planned. ULA chief executive Tory Bruno and representatives from Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which owns a majority stake in ULA, had discussions in Moscow about options for ensuring assured access to space for our customers when faced with geopolitical issues, according to an April 17 press release. Those discussions resulted in an agreement not to make any changes that would weaken either party’s position in its business dealings. The RD-180 engines were designed by NPO Energomash as a derivative of Russia’s NK-33 engine developed during Soviet times, optimized for operations within low Earth orbit.
The RD-180 engine has been used since May 2000 to launch Atlas rockets, making it one of America’s longest-running cooperative ventures between government and industry. That cooperation is likely to end as tensions between Washington and Moscow have risen in recent years. In a December 2015 conference call, Bruno said ULA needed something like $1 billion over a five-year period from various government sources to ensure adequate supplies of competitively priced engines for Vulcan. He also mentioned interest in Blue Origin’s BE-4 liquid oxygen/liquid natural gas rocket engine for Vulcan and ULA’s next-generation Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES) upper stage engine program.
ULA has sought $514 million in FY2017 funding to develop Vulcan and ACES and an additional $1 billion over five years, to which Bruno added a caveat: This is a good problem to have. This is not crying about not being able to afford anything. We don’t have enough money for all that we would like. The committee’s markup left ULA without any funds for 2017. During a May 2016 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he hoped ULA would consider using Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine for Vulcan as an alternative to Russia’s RD-180 engines rather than depending on Congress for more money. I hope you will use [the BE-4] as your prime propulsion system, McCain said.
6) ESA’s Relay satellite ‘in good shape’ after Soyuz launch
Officials from Europe’s space agency said Wednesday that one of their recently launched satellites is in good shape after it was packed into a Russian Soyuz rocket for its trip to orbit. According to an update provided by ESA, two-way communications have been established between spacecraft and ground stations, indicating a successful launch. The Relay satellite will serve as a communications relay and data transfer hub in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometres (22,500 miles) above Earth to support other European satellites. The satellite was launched into space Monday atop a Soyuz booster lifted off from Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome in far eastern Russia. On Tuesday, Roscosmos said it had successfully placed three space station modules into orbit; however, only two were registered as functional by NASA.
Officials said they expect to carry out a full evaluation after Relay is manoeuvred into its final orbit and placed in contact with other ESA satellites. We are eager to see how it performs in its new home, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Roberto Battiston said in a statement. The communication antennas were not deployed during launch, but a few days after Relay will receive an orbital boost from manoeuvring propellant it will extend them. Once in its final orbit, officials expect communications to become stable within one month, according to an update. According to ESA’s description, Relay is responsible for ensuring that Europe can communicate properly with all of its satellites as well as provide assistance where needed for other European mission operations.
Ground operators will use its S-band and X-band links to relay telemetry, commands and science data between Earth and ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel satellites. For instance, it could serve as a safe haven for scientific information if Europe’s space weather forecasting spacecraft suffers an outage or problems. The relay was built by Airbus Defence and Space using commercial technology that includes an innovative propulsion system based on high-temperature superconductors (for higher performance), multiple antennas (to provide broader coverage) as well as electronics to survive the radiation in space, according to ESA. The satellite was produced at facilities in Toulouse, France while testing took place at Airbus’ facility in Stevenage, England before being integrated into the Soyuz launch vehicle at Russian company RSC Energia’s headquarters in Moscow.
The private sector remains a key component in reducing risk and increasing public access to space. SpaceX is moving quickly towards its goal of launching humans into space from American soil, bringing America one step closer to sending people to Mars. It will take time, but it seems that Americans are not going back to solely buying rides from Russian companies or being beholden to foreign governments for our space transport system. It’s an exciting time in America!
SpaceX is a unique private enterprise working to increase American autonomy. It’s led by an eccentric billionaire whose personal goal is to send people to Mars. Yet in all its oddity, SpaceX is working hard to lower costs and make space more accessible for many more users. In short, SpaceX stands as an inspiration for other entrepreneurs: it represents that anything is possible if you’re willing to work hard enough!
Despite Trump rhetoric NASA budget cut worries industry – Fox Business – Feb 15, 2017, NASA will not get any extra money in President Donald Trump’s first budget blueprint and could see cuts elsewhere that could delay future missions to deep space, experts said Friday after reviewing details of proposed agency spending in 2018. The White House has asked Congress for $19.1 billion for NASA next year, a 0.8 per cent decrease from current levels and about half a billion less than what some Republicans had sought for the fiscal year 2018 beginning Oct 1.