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

SpaceX launches SSO-A payloads

SpaceX set more milestones today with the successful launch of the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission containing 64 payloads from their launch complex at Vandenberg.  The deployment of the individual payloads will be performed by Spaceflight now there vehicle is in orbit.

This was the 19th launch of the year for SpaceX breaking last year’s record, was the third flight of a single booster 1046, and contained the most payloads in a single mission 64.

The first stage successfully landed back on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship Just Read the Instructions which was station just off the coast near Vandenberg.  The booster wasn’t able to return to the launch site due to the classified NROL-71 payload that is waiting for launch on a Delta IV Heavy next week.

During this launch, Mr. Steven’s attempted to make another capture of the payload fairs but was unsuccessful, however as Elon Musk tweeted it was able to successful pick up the fairing from the ocean and SpaceX will dry them out and use them again.

This was also the first booster to launch from each of SpaceX’s launch pads having previously launched from LC-39A at KSC and LC-40 at CCAFS.

Soyuz MS-11 launches and docks successfully

Just over seven weeks after the MS-10 launch failed to reach space Russia resumed crewed launches today with the successful launch and docking of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft today.

The launch lifted off at 6:31 am EST and successfully docked at 12:34 pm EST just four orbits later.  Once the leak checks are completed the hatches between the ISS and Soyuz will be opened allow the new crew members to enter the station.

Aboard the MS-11 are Russian Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA Astronaut Anne McClain, and Canadian Astronaut David Saint-Jacques.

This launch also marks the 100th of 2018 worldwide and the first to two scheduled for today.

SpaceX launches Es’hail-2 satellite

SpaceX successfully launched the Es’hail-2 satellite for Es’hailSat (Qatar) this afternoon delivering the payload to orbit 32 minutes after liftoff from Launch Complex 39-A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Following the successful stage separation the booster successfully landing on SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship Of Course I Still Love you in the Atlantic ocean and will now return to Port Canaveral to be prepared for another launch.

This was also the first time SpaceX have ever launched in November.

This was the 18th launch of the year for SpaceX equaling their previous record set last year and the 11th landing.  SpaceX has launched Falcon 9 62 times of those 15 were using previously flown boosters.

Arianespace successfully launches BepiColumbo

Arianespace successfully launched the European Space Agency (ESA) & Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) BepiColumbo spacecraft toward Mercury.

The mission comprises two spacecraft: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).

This is the first European spacecraft to head to Mercury and will spend 7+ years traveling to the planet before entering orbit in 2025.  Once it arrives the two spacecraft will separate from the transport system and begin scientific exploration of the planet in 2026.

Following the successful launch the spacecraft was deployed to orbit xx minutes later, this was a short mission for Ariane 5 which typically takes 45+ minutes to deploy.

More information can be found here.

ULA successfully launches AEHF-4 satellite

Early this morning at 12:15 am EDT United Launch Alliance successfully delivered the AEHF-4 satellite for the United States Air Force.

Using the most powerful version of their Atlas V rocket with a single RD-180 engine and five strap-on solid boosters the rocket soared into the air for an on-time launch.

The Advanced Extremely High Frequency 4 (AEHF-4) satellite was deployed to a geostationary transfer orbit, the satellite is designed to withstand an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and provides jam-resistant, encrypted communications to air force terminals around the world.

This was the 8th launch for 2018 and 131st consecutive successful launch for ULA

Soyuz MS-10 aborts after launch, lands safely

What had become almost a routine process for Russia’s space program ran into an issue today when the launch of two crew members cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and astronaut Nick Hague aborted shortly after the first stage booster separation.

The two crew members were on their way to the International Space Station (ISS) and the flight was proceeding nominally until the four strap-on boosters separated.  Around the same time, a large plume of fuel could be seen escaping from the area of the vehicle.  This was followed shortly afterward by an alarm sounding, at which time the Russian Translator on the live feed started talking about booster failure and preparations for ballistic abort.

The crew landed safely around 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan and have been picked up by the search and rescue crews that were station about 90 minutes away from the landing site.  They are now on their way to Moscow and will then return to the launch site to meet with their families.

At present the impact on the ISS is unknown, Russia has announced they have set up a state commission to investigate the anomaly.  However, unless they can find an immediate cause of the issue and it can be resolved quickly it seems likely that there will be a stand-down of crewed launches using Soyuz.  This will mean that with no other vehicles available to launch crew to the ISS at present due to the delays in the US commercial crew program, and with the limited lifespan the Soyuz vehicle has on orbit that we may have to face the possibility of decrewing the ISS until such time that crewed launches can resume.

However, at present, the current crew of ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst who is currently the commander, Sergey Prokopyev and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor have plenty of supplies available and are not scheduled to leave the station until December having arrived in June.  Unfortunately, this is close to the lifespan of the Soyuz vehicle so there may not be a lot of room to extend the mission.

10/13/2018 – Update

While the telemetry is still be analysed the leading theory at this point is that one of the first stage strap-on boosters failed to separate correctly and impacted the second stage causing the launch abort.  The sequence of events meant that the main launch abort tower had already jettisoned however the Soyuz has a second abort system built into it (which apparent very few people knew about) which kicked in to take the crew away from the failing booster.

Russia has reported that they will provide an update on the investigation by October 20th at which time we should have a better idea of what impact this will have on future launches of Soyuz.

We will update this article as further information is made available.

SpaceX successfully launches SAOCOM-1A

This evening SpaceX successfully delivered the SAOCOM-1A, a radar observation satellite for Argentina to orbit and performed their first Return To Launch Site (RTLS) on the west coast.

This was the 17th launch this year for SpaceX and 10th landing and was the 62nd launch for Falcon 9 and 30th landing.

https://youtu.be/vr_C6LQ7mHc

ULA launches NASA’s ICESat2

Early this morning United Launch Alliance successfully launched NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satelite 2 (ICESat2).

The launch was slightly delayed due to an issue with the bottle temperatures during the countdown. This issue was quickly resolved and the mission completed successfully.

This was the final launch of the venerable Delta II which has been launching since 1989 and completed 154 missions, 1 failure, and 1 partial failure.  With this launch, Delta II also achieved an important milestone of 100 consecutive launch successes.

More information on ICESat2 can be found here.

SpaceX successfully launches Telstar 18V satellite

Following several delays to ensure the booster was ready for launch SpaceX successfully completed their 16th launch of 2018 with the deployment of the Telstar 18V satellite to its Geostationary Transfer Order.

This was the 2nd launch for Telstar in two months following the successful launch of the Telstar 19V satellite in July.

The first stage successfully landed on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY)

This was the 61st launch of Falcon 9 and 29th landing.