The Russian Progress MS-02 spacecraft launched successfully today beginning a two day journey to dock with the International Space Station.
Roscosmos elected to do the two day journey to allow time to fully test all the upgraded systems on the newer MS version of the vehicle. The first Soyuz MS crewed mission is due to launch in June and validation of the systems is required before that can occur.
This is the second of three cargo vehicles scheduled to travel to the station in less than a month.
Last night United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft towards the International Space Station (ISS). This is the second Cygnus that has launched on an Atlas V rocket and will be the heaviest payload the Atlas V has ever launched. Even with the heavier payload ULA didn’t require any Solid Rocket Boosters as Cygnus is only launching to Low Earth Orbit.
Continuing in the tradition of previous Cygnus launches Orbital ATK named this vehicle the S.S. Rick Husband in honor of Col. Rock Husband USAF.
Update: After the launch a number of people noticed that the burn time on the Centaur upper stage was almost a minute longer than originally planned. ULA has since announced that this was caused by the first stage RD-180 engine shutting down 5 seconds earlier than originally planned requiring the Centaur to compensate for the difference. They are investigating why the engine shutdown early and don’t currently know if this could impact the next Atlas V launch.
SpaceX continued it’s 2016 launch campaign today with the successful delivery of the SES-9 satellite to orbit. This was the third successful launch since the June 2015 failure and the second launch of the Falcon 9 Full Thrust version of the rocket.
SpaceX attempted the launch several times but had to scrub due to several reasons including LOX cooling/loading issues, wayward boats and severe wind sheer.
The vehicle lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 18:35 EST today following a smooth countdown. Once in orbit the second stage re-started to allow the payload to be delivered to the desired orbit.
To allow SES to make the SES-9 satellite operational as quickly as possible SpaceX forgo the chance to return the first stage to the Cape and instead elected to attempt another landing at sea on there Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I still Love You”.
Below are screen grabs of the launch