Blue Origin completes 9th New Shepard Test Flight

Blue Origin completed their 9th test flight of New Shepard from their launch site in West Texas. For this test, Blue Origin tested the Capsule Escape Motor approximately 20 seconds after separation to determine how the Solid Rocket Motor operates at that attitude.

There was some concern that the test could cause issues for the booster landing, however, it successfully returned back following the successful separation.

As a result of this, the capsule traveled 50,000 ft higher than previous flights to a height of 389,846 ft but still returned safely to a touchdown under the three parachutes 11 minutes 17 seconds after launch.

This was the 3rd flight for this booster, capsule and also for Mannequin Skywalker who traveled inside the capsule to allow Blue Origin to see the impact of the flight on a life-sized mannequin.

Russia launches Progress 70 and completes fastest docking ever

Today Russia launched their latest Progress spacecraft to the International Space Station. The spacecraft lifted off at 17:51 EDT and then used an accelerated approach to dock just 3h 40m later making this the fastest launch to docking ever for Progress.

This was the third time Russia had attempted this, however, the previous two times the launch vehicle experienced technical issues while on the launch pad and the launch was delayed. Due to these delays, there wasn’t another launch opportunity available that would allow the accelerated approach so they had to revert to the standard docking profile.

As with previous changes to the launch profile for Russian vehicles, they test with the cargo Progress vehicles before attempting the same with the crew vehicles where the accelerated docking has more benefits for the crew aboard due to how cramped it is inside.

My first live launch – SpaceX CRS-15

Today my family and I were able to see our first live rocket launch with the successful liftoff of the Falcon 9 carrying the Dragon Spacecraft to orbit for SpaceX’s CRS-15 mission to the International Space Station.

Originally the plan was to get up a 2 in the morning and drive from Davenport, FL to Titusville, FL to watch the launch, however, my wife decided that we should stay in Titusville on Thursday night so that we only needed to drive a few minutes to get a location to view the launch.

We decided to watch from nearby the Max Brewer Bridge as there was plenty of available space along the road.  While we waited I attempted to take some pictures of the Vehicle Assembly Building which was directly across the water from where we stood, however the Nikon D50 camera that we currently own wasn’t able to handle it well.  Thankfully once the rocket actually launched I was able to get some pictures on the camera.  Our kids also had their phones and took some amazing pictures which I have included below.

While I have watched most of the launches online over the years to experience it live for the first time was definetly worth the effort of getting to the launch and I would strongly recommend anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to do so.

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SpaceX successfully launches SES-12 satellite

Early this morning SpaceX successfully launched the SES-12 satellite, the launch was originally scheduled for May 31st but was delayed to allow SpaceX additional time to check the rocket’s second stage to ensure mission success.

The nine Merlin 1D engines came to life at 12:45 am EDT following a smooth countdown and propelled the payload to orbit, this was the 11th launch of the year for SpaceX. There was no attempt to salvage the first stage which had been flown on a previous mission to boost the Airforces X-37B spaceplane. The payload fairings where set to be picked up from the ocean once they had landed as the catcher boat is still station off the West Coast as they perfect the process of catching them.

To date, SpaceX has launched 55 Falcon 9’s, 13 of them reused.

SpaceX launches Iridium and NASA Satellites

SpaceX continued their 2018 campaign with the successful launch of five more Iridium Next satellites as well as two for NASA.

The NASA satellites consisted of two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO) satellites which will measure variations in gravity over Earth’s surface.

The two Grace satellites were deployed shortly after the second stage reached orbit, it then coasted for 45 minutes before firing the engine for the second time and then deploying the five Iridium Next satellites.

This was the 10th launch of the year and the 9th for Falcon 9, this was also the 12th time that SpaceX used a previously flown booster.  To date, SpaceX has successfully launched 56 times (2 Falcon 1, 53 Falcon 9 and one Falcon Heavy) and delivered 114 satellites, 15 Dragons, and a Roadster to orbit.

Orbital ATK launches Cygnus J.R. Thompson

Orbital ATK successfully launched their Cygnus spacecraft towards the International Space Station this morning. The spacecraft named J.R. Thompon is carrying 7,385 lbs of cargo to the station and is scheduled to be captured on Thursday by the stations Canadarm 2.  As with the previous Cygnus launches the spacecraft was given a name this time “J.R. Thompson”

S.S. J.R. Thompson

For each CRS mission, it is a tradition at Orbital ATK to name the Cygnus cargo spacecraft for an individual who has furthered our nation’s human spaceflight programs. For our OA-9 mission, we are proud to announce that the OA-9 spacecraft will be named after J.R. Thompson, a distinguished leader in the aerospace industry and a member of our Orbital ATK family. Throughout his life, J.R. held prominent positions at NASA, the Marshall Space Flight Center, and Orbital Sciences. We are honored to celebrate his life with the upcoming launch of the S.S. J.R. Thompson.

Quote from OA-9 mission page

The launch was originally scheduled to liftoff on Sunday 20th but was delayed a day to allow the teams additional time to perform inspections and tests of the system to ensure a successful launch today.

This was the first launch for Orbital ATK this year, the 8th overall for the Antares rocket and the 10th for the Cygnus spacecraft.  After the Orb-3 launch failure in October 2014, Orbital launched two Cygnus spacecraft on United Launch Alliances Atlas V.

SpaceX successfully launches Bangabandhu Satellite-1

SpaceX continued its 2018 launch campaign with the successful launch of the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 aboard its first Block 5 Falcon 9.

The Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 has been designated as the final version and incorporates a number of changes designed to allow multiple flights to be performed by each booster with minimal to no changes needed. During a conference call today Elon Musk explained that the changes also addressed all of NASA Crew requirements.

The most obvious visual changes are the black interchange at the top of the first stage, the larger landing legs, which are now retractable.  Other changes that have been detailed include upgraded Engines to address a cracking issue in the turbopump blades and also increases the thrust by 8%, new Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessel (COPV) tanks.

With this launch, SpaceX returned to fast fueling process with both the RP-1 and LOX loading starting at T-35m.  This was the process was in use when the AMOS-6 incident happened, SpaceX stopped using it after that until now.

After successfully completing its job of boosting the rocket towards orbit the first stage successfully landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone  Ship (ASDS) “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean.

This was the 9th launch of 2018 and 54th overall for Falcon 9, and the 5th landing of 2018 and 25th overall.

 

Blue Origin launches 8th New Shepard

Last Sunday Blue Origin successfully launched their 8th New Shepard mission as they continue their march towards sub-orbital crewed missions.

This was the first launch of 2018 for Blue Origin and was announced several days before by Jeff Bezo’s via Twitter.

Once launched the booster successfully deployed the crew capsule before coming back for a safe landing, the crew module achieved an apogee of 351,000 feet before descending to a successful landing under its parachutes.

At present Blue Origin hasn’t announced when it will begin crewed flights but each test they complete brings them one step closer to achieving that goal.

SpaceX Launches TESS

This evening SpaceX successfully launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) telescope this evening.

SpaceX’s eighth launch of the year and 53rd overall for Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Launch Complex (LC)-40 following a smooth countdown.  The TESS telescope was delivered to orbit approximately 48 minutes later to begin on-orbit operations.

The first stage of the rocket successfully landed on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) “Of Course I Still Love You” marking the fifth landing of the year and 24th overall.

The launch was originally scheduled for Monday 16th but was delayed 48 hours to allow SpaceX more time to perform Guidance Navigation and Control analysis to ensure a successful mission today.

For more information on TESS check out their web page here.

ULA launches AFSPC-11 satellite

This evening United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-11 satellite on its Atlas V rocket in the 551 vehicle configuration with a five-meter fairing, five solid rocket boosters, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.

Following a smooth countdown, the rocket launched at 7:13 pm EST, further details of the mission milestones have not been released as requested by the customer.  Once we get confirmation from ULA we will update this post.