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

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.

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

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.