ULA launches GOES-S satellite

United Launch Alliance successfully launched the NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) satellite this evening from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 41.

Following a smooth countdown, the rocket lifted off at 5:02 pm EST and successfully deployed the satellite into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit 3h 32m later.

SpaceX successfully launches Paz satellite and own Starlink Demo satellites

This morning SpaceX successfully launched the Paz satellite for Spanish company hisdeSAT as well as two of their own Starlink demo satellites.

The launch was delayed several times to allow SpaceX engineers more time to ensure the rocket was ready for flight and due to upper-level winds.

This was the 4th launch of 2018 for SpaceX and was the 9th time a previously flown booster was used.  As this was an older booster SpaceX didn’t attempt to recover it, instead choosing to let it crash into the ocean.  They did, however, attempt to recover one half of the payload fairing on their new boat Mr. Steven.  This was the first flight of the new 2.0 fairing which has been modified to allow it to be recoverable.

SpaceX launches first Falcon Heavy

In a major milestone for the company, SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon Heavy rocket today.

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The Falcon Heavy was first proposed in 2011 just after the first flights of Falcon 9 had been completed, however, it has taken seven years for the rocket to go from the drawing board to flight.  During that time SpaceX has made a number of significant improvements to the Falcon 9 that have made some of the flights that were originally planned for Heavy possible on Falcon 9.  The final iteration Block 5 is due to start flying later this year which could improve performance even more, however, at present we don’t have details to specify by how much.

Now that Falcon Heavy is operation SpaceX has the most powerful currently active rocket in the world with 5.1 million pounds of thrust.  This version flew with the older Block 3 setup, future variants could be even more powerful.

Due to the design of the Falcon Heavy and SpaceX’s ability to land their core stages we had the privilege of watching two landings today.  The two side booster separated from the rocket at 2:33 minutes into the flight and returned to the Landing Zones at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  The center core continued to power the flight until 3:09 minutes before separating from the upper stage and attempting a landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I Still Love You”. At present we don’t have a status on the center core, we will update the article once we hear more news from SpaceX.
UPDATE – It is looking increasingly likely that the center core didn’t survive the landing, we will post an official statement from SpaceX once we have it.

In another first for SpaceX, the upper stage will coast for six hours before performing a third burn which will send the payload on a hyperbolic orbit towards Mars.  To enable SpaceX to win contracts for launches directly to Geostationary Orbits, they need to demonstrate the ability to restart the stage once it has traveled through the Van Allen Belts that surround the planet.

For this launch Elon Musk has placed his Ruby Red Roadster on top of the upper stage, aboard the car is a dummy wearing a SpaceX spacesuit.

Starman in Red Roadster

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Elon confirmed that the 2nd burn of the upper stage was successful, we will find out in approximately 5 hours if the 3rd was too.

This was the 3rd launch for 2018 and because two cores landed successfully the 4th landing **

This was the 49th launch since Falcon 9 started flying and 25th landing.

** The GovSat1 launch didn't land on the ASDS, however, the core did survive and we are counting that as a successful landing.

SpaceX launches GovSat 1

SpaceX successfully launched GovSat 1 today for their second launch of 2018, the Falcon 9 first stage used for this launch was previously flown in May 2017 and was disposed of in the Atlantic Ocean after successfully separating from the second stage. The second stage continued to orbit where is successfully delivered the GovSat 1 satellite.

Built by Orbital ATK for LuxGovSat, a joint venture between SES and the government of Luxembourg will provide secure military X-band and Ka-band communications links, helping support Luxembourg’s NATO obligations

Initially, it was thought that SpaceX wasn’t going to attempt any recovery on this mission as they didn’t send out the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, however, they did send out some of the support ships and now we know why based on this tweet from Elon Musk

Arianespace SES 14/Al Yah 3 launch update

It now appears that the launch this evening was at least partially successful as announced by Arianespace, however, at present, we don’t know for certain if the satellites were deployed to the correct orbits or not.

SES made the following announcement, based on this it does appear that the Ariane 5 delivered the satellites into a lower than expected orbit, in the SES press release they announced that the spacecraft would require an additional four weeks to reach the desired orbit and would use its electric propulsion system to get there.

We don’t know what impact this will have on the Al Yah 3 satellite that uses the traditional chemical-based propulsion to reach it’s desired orbit before switching to an electric system for station keeping.

We will update the article when further news is available.

Arianespace SES 14/Al Yah 3 launch appears to have failed

Today’s Ariane 5 launch of the SES 14 and Al Yah 3 satellites appears to have failed sometime after the first stage separation. The launch lifted off at 5:20 pm EST and appeared to be going smoothly with the successful booster separation, payload fairing separation, and first stage engine burnout.

However, telemetry from the spacecraft was lost soon after the first stage separation and while the launch commentator continued to read out successful milestones it soon became obvious that something was wrong when the DDO (Launch Range Manager in English) wasn’t announcing those same milestones.

As the mission continued Arianespace paused their live stream of the events with the notice that they were waiting for satellite signal acquisition before resuming, after a while the CEO of Arianespace made an official announcement that there appears to have been an anomaly with the launch. That doesn’t mean that the satellites were lost but they will not know until they have researched further.

We will update this article as we receive more information from Arianespace but expect that there may be a delay to future launches.

ULA launches SBIRS-4 satellite

United Launch Alliance launched their 2nd mission of 2018 with the successful liftoff of the Atlas V carrying the Air Forces Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) 4 satellite which will be placed in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO).

Following a one day delayed due to a valve issue on the pad, the rocket lifted off at 7:48 pm EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Launch Complex 41 and successfully delivered the payload to orbit.

ULA launches NROL-47

United Launch Alliance (ULA) began it’s 2018 launch manifest with the successful launch of the NROL-47 payload from Vandenburg Air Force Station on Friday 12th.  The payload was carried to orbit using ULA’s Delta IV rocket in the 5,2 configuration meaning there was a 5-meter faring and 2 solid rocket boosters attached.

The launch which had been delayed from 2017 to allow ULA time to address an issue found with the rocket was again delayed this week due to weather issue and then technical issues.  However, once those issues were addressed ULA successfully launched the payload on Friday.  This was the 124th consecutive successful launch for ULA.

SpaceX begin’s 2018 with successful Zuma launch

Following on from a record-setting year SpaceX got an early start to 2018 with the successful launch of the secret Zuma payload.  The launch occurred at 8:00 pm EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Launch Complex (LC) 40 following a smooth countdown.

The launch which was originally scheduled for November last year was delayed due to an issue found while testing payload fair separation data for another customer.  Details of the payload are secret and the broadcast we cut off after the successful landing of the first stage back at CCAFS Landing Zone 1.

We may not get any further updates on the success of the mission, if anything is posted we will update this post.

Update (1/8) – We are hearing rumors that the Satellite may have failed after reaching orbit. No official response yet and no clue if this was an issue during launch or after deployment. We will update the story when we have more information.

Update (1/9) – Due to the secrecy of this mission it is difficult to get true information but multiple sources have said that the Satellite did indeed fail, the two most likely candidates are that it never deployed from the 2nd stage or that it did deploy but didn’t function correctly.

SpaceX released the following statement regarding the launch which indicates that the Falcon 9 performed as expected.

The following statement is from Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX:

“For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible.

“Since the data reviewed so far indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed, we do not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule. Falcon Heavy has been rolled out to launchpad LC-39A for a static fire later this week, to be followed shortly thereafter by its maiden flight. We are also preparing for an F9 launch for SES and the Luxembourg Government from SLC-40 in three weeks.”

We will continue to monitor the situation and update if more information becomes available.

SpaceX launches 4th Iridium Next Mission

SpaceX concluded it’s launch manifest for 2017 with the successful launch of the 4th Iridium Next and deployment of another ten Iridium Next satellites.  The booster used for this mission previously launched ten Iridium Next satellites in June of this year.

This was the 18th launch this year for SpaceX and 45th Falcon 9, unlike previous Iridium launches SpaceX didn’t land the booster instead letting is splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.