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.

 

SpaceX Dragon completes CRS-14 mission

SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule completed its CRS-14 mission today with the successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

The capsule which was launched on April 2nd and spent 31 days attached to the International Space Station before being loaded with critical experiments and cargo that will now be processed by NASA.

ULA launches Mars InSight

United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched NASA’s Mars InSight lander today aboard their Atlas V rocket in the 401 configuration from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Following a smooth countdown, the rocket lifted off at 7:05 AM EDT and approximately 94 minutes later the spacecraft separated from the upper stage to begin its six-month journey to the red planet.

After separation of the main payload, two CubeSats MarCO-A and MarCO-B were also successfully deployed and will accompany InSight on its journey.  They will be used to relay information from InSight during it’s landing on Mars in November.

This was the first time that a spacecraft destined for another planet had been launched from the west coast.

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.

SpaceX launches Dragon on 14th CRS mission

This afternoon SpaceX launched their 14th Dragon mission to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 40.

Following a smooth countdown, the nine Merlin 1D engines powered the rocket and its payload to orbit.

This was the 7th launch for SpaceX in 2018, the 52nd Falcon 9 launch and 11th using a Flight Proven booster.  As this was an older Block IV booster SpaceX elected to forgo the landing attempt and instead used the booster to perform testing before it crashed into the ocean.

This was also the 2nd mission for this Dragon Capsule which had previously flown on the CRS-8 mission in 2016.  Now that the capsule is in orbit and the Solar Array’s have successfully deployed it will begin its journey to the ISS which capture and berthing expected on Wednesday morning.

SpaceX launches another 10 Iridium Next satellites

SpaceX successfully launched another 10 Iridium Next satellites from their Vandenburg launch pad today.  The launch was originally scheduled for March 30th but was delayed a day due to a testing issue with one of the 10 satellites that turned out to be a cable issue with the test system.

Following a smooth countdown, the flight-proven booster’s nine Merlin 1D engines ignited and liftoff occurred at 10:13 am EDT.  The 10 satellites were successfully deployed to orbit an hour later.

This was the 5th Falcon 9 launch of 2018 and 51st overall, as with other recent flights SpaceX elected to not recover the first stage booster as it was an older version and instead focused on the payload fairing recovery.  At present we haven’t heard any status other than this from Elon.

The fairing recovery wasn’t successful as shown by this tweet from Elon Musk

Today also marks the one year anniversary of SpaceX’s first flight-proven booster launch and with this launch, they have now reused ten boosters.

The launch broadcast we cut off after the 2nd stage engine cut-off due to a licensing issue with NOAA as seen here.