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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.