SpaceX completes Crewed Dragon mission

This morning the first Crewed Dragon mission came to an end with a successful splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. The spacecraft which was launched last Saturday spent five days docked to the International Space Station during which time the crew spent time unloading and loading cargo and performing tests and inspections.

The hatches between the two vehicles were closed yesterday and autonomous departure occurred this morning complete another important test.

This mission included a number of first for SpaceX. This was their first crewed rated vehicle, their first autonomous docking, first splashdown in the Atlantic ocean.

With the successful completion of this mission, SpaceX will now refurbish the Dragon which will be used again for the inflight abort test where the eight SuperDraco engines on the capsule will fire while the rocket is at Maximum Dynamic Pressure (MaxQ) to verify the abort system. This is tentatively scheduled for June.

This then sets up Crewed Dragon for its first crewed mission which is tentatively scheduled for July this year, however that is subject to change as the data from these tests are completed and ISS schedules aligned.

Hatches Open on Crew Dragon

In another critical milestone the hatches between the International Space Station and Crewed Dragon were opened at 8:07 am EST today.

We were also treated to amazing views from inside the Dragon vehicle as the hatches were opened, the first time for a capsule docked to the station.

Over the next few days the crew will spend time unloading and loading cargo that is also being carried inside the vehicle.

Undocking and splashdown is expected in five days.

Crewed Dragon successfully Docks to ISS

Following a 27 hour journey to the International Space Station to crewed Dragon spacecraft has successfully docked to the International Docking Adapter on the station.

During the docking, a number of tests were performed to ensure the system was working as needed and once those were complete the vehicle completed the automated docking at 6:03 am EST. The soft capture which is the initial connection between the two vehicles occurred at 5:51 am EST, after that the full docking took approximately 12 minutes.

The hatches between the ISS and Dragon will be opening in a couple of hours.

SpaceX Launches Crewed Dragon

At 2:49 am EST today SpaceX launched the first of their Crewed Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.

As this was the first launch of the spacecraft there were no crew members onboard however the vehicle is heavily instrumented and does carry a dummy called Ripley which will allow SpaceX and NASA to monitor the loads experienced during all phases of the launch.

Dragon will now travel to the ISS for a docking tomorrow morning at approximately 6 am. Another feature of this vehicle is the ability to automatically dock with the International Docking Adapter which was launched by a Cargo Dragon in 2016.

This flight known as DM-1 is the first flight in the NASA Commercial Crew contract.

This marks another important first for SpaceX as with the cargo Dragon they are now the first private company to launch a crew rated capsule to orbit.

Virgin Galactic carries first passenger

Virgin Galactic hit a new milestone this week when they reached a height of
89.9 km and also carried a third crew member.

The flight of Virgin SpaceShipTwo (VSS) Unity occurred on 2/22 and carried pilots Mackay and Masucci as well as passenger Moses.

VSS Unity was dropped from the carrier plane WhiteKnightOne and a few seconds later fired its engine to propel it towards space, during this flight the vehicle also achieve a speed of Mach 3.04 the fastest to date for Virgin Galactic.

As a result of this flight Mackay, Masucci and Moses became the 469th, 470th and 471st humans to become astronauts, a number that could soon start climbing rapidly as Virgin, Blue Origin, SpaceX and others start flying people to space.

SpaceX launches Nusantara Satu and SpaceIL Lunar Lander

This evening SpaceX completed their second launch of the year with the successful delivery of the SSL built the Nusantara Satu satellite for PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN), the SpaceIL’s lunar spacecraft Beresheet (Hebrew for “in the beginning”) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) S5 experimental small spacecraft.

This was the third flight for the first stage booster 1048 which previously launched ten Iridium Next satellites in July 2018 and the SAOCOM 1A satellite in October 2018.

Following liftoff the first stage successfully landed on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship Of Course I Still Love You. Which according to SpaceX was their most difficult landing to date.

During the coast phase of the mission Elon Musk indicated that this same booster would be used for the Crewed Dragon inflight abort test in April making it the first booster to be used four times.

The SpaceIL Beresheet payload was deployed 33 minutes after launch to begin its two month journey to the moon. The Nusantara Satu satellite and AFRL S5 were deployed together 11 minutes later.

SpaceX begins 2019 with successful Iridium Next launch

SpaceX completed the last of there contracted launches for Iridium Next with the successfully delivery of 10 satellites to orbit this morning.

The launch which had been delayed several times due to satellite and vehicle technical issues successfully lifted off at 10:31 AM EST.

This was the 2nd flight of the booster 1049 which again successfully landed this time on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone (ASDS) Ship Just Read The Instructions, having previously launched from the east coast and landed on ASDS Of Course I Still Love You.

The ten satellites were successfully deployed to orbit 71 minutes after launch concluding another successful mission for both SpaceX and Iridium.

Week in Space 12/31-1/5

As we start 2019 we are launching a new weekly summary of the activities that happened or relate to space.

New Horizons flies by Ultima Thule

On New Years eve the New Horizons spacecraft flew past the asteroid 2014-MU69 which is being referred to as Ultima Thule. The asteroid which is 4+ billion miles away is the the area of the Solar System known as the Kuiper Belt and is the further ever object a spacecraft has visited to date.

Travelling at more than 32,000 mph the spacecraft began flyby operations a couple of days before closest flyby which occured on 1st Jan. Due to the distant it took 6 plus hours for the first data to be received on Earth which included the first images and also spacecraft health data that indicates that the data recorders are full indicating a successful flyby.

For images and more data visit the spacecraft web site here.

OSIRIS-REx Orbit’s Asteroid Bennu

While most of the focus on New Years eve was on celebrating and New Horizons another spacecraft was also performing maneuvers in space as it fired it’s engine to go into orbit of Asteroid Bennu.

The spacecraft OSIRIS-REx which was launched in September 2016 traveled to the Asteroid arriving in early December, since then it has been flying in formation with the Asteroid performing surveys.

For images and more data visit the spacecraft web site here.

China Lands on the Moon

China successfully landed a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the moon making them the first nation to do so. Coming off their busiest year in rocket launches China has started 2019 with the successful landing on the far side of the moon with there lander Chang’e 4, aboard the lander is a rover Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2.

Once on the surface the rover is successful deployed and has already started to explore the environment.

For images and more data check out this following site.

SpaceX rolls Crewed Dragon to Launch Pad

This week SpaceX rolled the first Crewed Dragon to Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center for a dry-run rehearsal and fit check. This was the first time since the last shuttle STS-135 in 2011 a crewed vehicle has been vertical at LC-39A.

While the launch date for the first demo flight (DM-1) is currently in flux due to the government shutdown it is expected to happen late Jan or early Feb this year.

Images of the vehicle on the pad can be found here.

SpaceX building Star Ship hopper in Texas

Meanwhile at their new launch complex in Boca Chica Village, Texas SpaceX are busy building the first of their Star Ship hopper vehicles which will be used to test the technology they are planning to use for missions eventually to Mars and beyond.

The design of these vehicles has changed several times over the time it was originally announced however now it seems we are closer to the final version with actual hardware appearing.

According to Elon Musk we can expect to see flights in 4-8 weeks, however, as with most estimates from Elon it may be longer. It looks like spring/summer is going to be very exciting.

For images check our these twitter accounts Cowboy Dan and Austin Barnard

SpaceX completes 2018 with successful deployed of GPS III satellite

SpaceX completed its busiest year so far with the successful deployment of the first GPS III satellite, named Vespucci, today.  This was SpaceX’s 21st launch of the year and 72nd overall. The launch was delayed due to a sensor issue and then weather but was able to get off the ground today.

This was the first competitively won US National Security contracted launch carrying the next generation Global Position Satellite (GPS) III satellite to orbit.

Due to customer requirements, this was an expendable launch on a brand new block 5 booster, meaning that the after successful state separation the booster fell back to earth and splashed down in the ocean.

This concludes another record breaking year for SpaceX which saw the launch of the Falcon Heavy, 21 launches, 13 landings, third flight of a single booster core, most payloads on a single launch (for any US carrier) and progress on the Crew Dragon schedule to launch in the new year.

SpaceX launches Dragon for CRS-16 mission

At 1:16 pm EST today a Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 40 carrying a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station for there CRS-16 mission.  The Dragon capsule used for this launch was previously flown on the CRS-10 mission.

10 minutes later the Dragon capsule was delivered to orbit to begin it’s journey to the station, during this launch the first stage attempted a landing at Landing Complex 1 but wasn’t successful instead landing in the Atlantic ocean.

This was the 20th launch for SpaceX this year.

Update on the first stage booster