SpaceX launches EchoStar 23

After several delays originally for the static fire test and then the weather SpaceX successfully completed its third launch of 2017 this morning with the delivery of the EchoStar 23 payload to orbit.  Liftoff occurred at 02:00 with the ignition of the nine Merlin 1D engines that propelled the towards orbit.  35 minutes later confirmation of payload separation was posted by SpaceX.

Due to the weight and destination of the payload there was no attempt to land the rocket either on land or the ASDS.

The full launch video from SpaceX is below, liftoff occurred at 12:00 minutes in.

Jeff Bezos provides update on New Glenn Rocket

This morning at the Satellite 2017 show Jeff Bezos, of Amazon and Blue Origin, provided an on the New Glenn launch system, including video below. He also announced that they had signed their first customer Eutelsat.

Update March 8, Jeff announced second customer for New Glenn

Here are some of the details revealed today: –

  • New Glenn is a two stage system with first stage being designed for 100 reuses.
  • New Glenn is designed to carry 13 tonnes to GTO and 45 to LEO.
  • New Glenn will have six landing legs and could still land even if one didn’t deploy correctly.
  • New Glenn first stage will use seven BE-4 engines (based on Video), which would translate to approximately 3.85 million lbs of thrust at launch.
  • Blue Origin incorporated what they have learned from New Shepherd into the design of New Glenn.

In related news, Jeff tweeted yesterday that the first BE-4 engine completed assembly.

ULA launches NROL-79 mission

Following a smooth countdown this morning United Launch Alliance launched an Atlas V 401 carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Due to the nature of this launch the live broadcast was terminated after the payload separation occurred.

SpaceX Moon Mission

In a stunning announcement yesterday SpaceX explained that two people had paid significant deposits for a Dragon 2 mission around the moon currently scheduled to launch in 2018.

Using a free return trajectory around the moon the mission will launch from KSC LC-39A atop a Falcon Heavy and then fly around the moon taking the crew further from Earth than any humans have ever been before.  The two crew members will spend seven days in space before returning to Earth either landing back in the ocean or potentially using a propulsive landing back on land.

Elon Musk made the announcement during a telecon that was announced on Sunday, he explained that SpaceX plans to launch the first uncrewed Dragon 2 later this year on a test mission to the International Space Station.  This new mission will not launch until SpaceX has completed the certification of Dragon 2 for NASA.

If SpaceX is able to achieve this schedule then they will do something that hasn’t been done since the last Apollo mission to the moon.  This will also leapfrog them over NASA which is currently looking into adding a crew to the EM-1 mission due to launch sometime in 2018, however it is likely to be delayed especially if they need to make changes to accommodate crew, otherwise the first crewed mission isn’t scheduled until No Earlier Than (NET) 2021.

SpaceX CRS-10 launches

This morning SpaceX made history once again as it made its first launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The pad that had previously been used by NASA for Apollo and Space Shuttle launches has been refurbished by SpaceX over the last couple of years.

Designed to support the launch of Falcon Heavy, National Security Payloads and Crewed Missions 39A was called into duty following the September, 1st 2016 accident that resulted in the loss of LC-40 at neighboring Cape Canaveral.

The launch was originally scheduled to lift off yesterday but during to a 2nd Stage Thrust Vector issue they decided to scrub to allow time to investigate further.  The issue was resolved overnight and the countdown proceeded this morning to a 9:38 am EST launch when the nine merlin engines roared to life to propel the rocket to orbit.  Following completion of the first stage burn, the booster returned to Landing Zone 1 (LZ1) and landed making this the third time SpaceX has returned to LZ1.

ULA starts it’s 2017 launch manifest

United Launch Alliance began their 2017 launch manifest with the successful delivery of the Air Force’s Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-3 satellite.

The launch was originally scheduled to launch yesterday but was delayed due to a sensor issue on the RD-180 engine the Atlas V 401 and then a fouled range with an aircraft encroaching on the keep out zone.

The countdown today proceeded smoothly with an on time launch occurring at 7:41 pm ET from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 41 at Cape Canaveral and delivered the payload to orbit 43 minutes later.

SpaceX launches first of seven Iridium Next payloads

This afternoon SpaceX successfully returned to flight operations following the September 1st anomaly with the successful launch of ten Iridium Next satellites.  The launch was delayed several times due to the investigation into the anomaly, as well as the unfavorable weather around Vandenburg this week.

As a result of the investigation into the anomaly, there were several changes to the countdown process for this launch, the first and most obvious was the lack of payload during the static fire test.  Less obvious was the change to the fueling process in previous launches the RP-1 and LOX were loaded at the same time in the last 35 minutes of the countdown.  However for this launch the RP-1 loading started 70 minutes before launch with the LOX being loaded as before with 35 minutes left.

Following a smooth countdown the rocket lifted off on time and successfully deployed the ten satellites, however due to a ground station issue confirmation of the successful deployments took longer then expected.  The first stage also successfully landed on the ASDS in the pacific ocean.

 

Weekly Space News – 1/7

We are excited to bring back our weekly review of Space related news. These are a selection of stories that excite us about the future of Space exploration/development. The opinions in these reviews are our own.

NASA announces selection of two Discovery Missions

This week NASA announced that he has selected the Lucy and Psyche missions both designed to explore asteroids in our solar system.  Lucy due to launch in 2021 will visit a main belt asteroid in 2025 and then six Jupiter Trojan asteroids between 2027 and 2033.  Psyche due to launch in 2023 will visit 16 Psyche a giant metal asteroid, scientists believe it may have been the core of a planet which lost its outer layers.

SpaceX moves closer to return to flight

This week SpaceX completed the first Static Fire test since the September 1st anomaly that resulted in the loss of the Spacecom Amos 6 satellite and inflicted significant damage to Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral.  Having concluded the investigation into the anomaly they determined that the most likely cause of the issue was due to the way the propellants were loaded into the rocket, full report here.  SpaceX has also received a launch license from the FAA allowing them to move towards a launch on Monday 9th from Vandenburg.

 

SpaceX ready for resumption of Falcon 9 launches

Following a four month investigation into the September 1st anomaly that resulted in the lose of a Falcon 9 rocket with it’s payload the Spacecom Amos 6 satellite and significant damage to Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX announced this week that they have completed the investigate (see report here) and are ready to return to flight operations started on Sunday 8th January with the first of seven launches for Iridium.

SpaceX are able to resume flight operations without having to make design changes to the rocket by changing their propellant loading operation to avoid the scenario that most likely caused the anomaly.  They have indicated that longer term they will make design changes to the COPV tanks to resolve the issue which will allow them to resume faster loading operations.

The flight of the Falcon 9 with ten Iridium Next satellites is currently scheduled for 10:28:97 PST on Sunday 8th January from Space Launch Complex 4E in Vandenberg, CA.  However this is still subject to the results of the Static Fire test scheduled for Tuesday 3rd and flight readiness review.