SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.
The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.
An international fleet of spacecraft will be launched in 2018 to explore the Moon, Mars, Mercury and the Sun. Two sample-return spacecraft will enter orbit around asteroids while a third spacecraft will be launched to search for asteroids that contain water that can be mined.
NASA will also launch its next exoplanet hunting spacecraft in March. And the space agency will ring in 2019 with the first ever flyby of a Kuiper Belt object.
And, oh yes, Elon Musk is launching his car in the direction of Mars. (more…)
Centennial, Colo., Dec. 4, 2017 (ULA PR)– L3 Technologies announced today that it has entered into an agreement with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to become the exclusive provider of avionics and related services for its new Vulcan Centaur rocket system, delivering an estimated $1 billion-plus in mission-critical systems and services, over a 10-year period.
The president of SpaceX said she expects the company would receive additional funding from the U.S. government to support the development of its large reusable launch system.
Speaking at the NewSpace Europe conference here Nov. 16, Gwynne Shotwell noted that SpaceX is already receiving funding from the U.S. Air Force supporting the development of Raptor, the engine that will power the vehicle known as BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, and the reusable spacecraft known as BFS or Big Falcon Spaceship.
“I do anticipate that there is residual capability of that system that the government will be interested in,” she said. “I do see that we would likely get some funding from the government for BFR and BFS.” She added, though, that work on the vehicles was not contingent on receiving government funding.
The U.S. Air Force recently issued a request for proposals that will fund the development of new launch systems to replace ULA’s Delta IV and Atlas V boosters.
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Sentinel-6A mission. Launch is currently targeted for November 2020, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
NASA also has selected United Launch Services LLC (ULS) of Centennial, Colorado, to provide launch services for the Landsat 9 mission. The mission is currently targeted for a contract launch date of June 2021, while protecting for the ability to launch as early as December 2020, on an Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., (Oct. 15, 2017) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Oct. 15 at 3:28 a.m. EDT. Designated NROL-52, the mission is in support of national security.
ULA says it scrubbed an early-morning launch of an Atlas V carrying the NROL-52 satellite due to weather violations. The launch has been rescheduled for Sunday, Oct. 15, at 3:28 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was the third scrub of the flight due to weather constraints and the fourth scrub overall.
A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a Russian Progress resupply ship blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Saturday. The freighter will take about two days to reach the International Space Station. The launch comes two after a last-minute abort of the Soyuz booster.
On Friday, the European Sentinel 5 Precursor satellite was orbited by a Russian Rockot booster from the Plesestk Cosmodrome. The mission, a joint collaboration of the European Commission and European Space Agency, will measure greenhouse gases.
SpaceX successfully launched the SES 11 and EchoStar 105 communication satellites on Wednesday evening from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket landed on an off-shore drone ship.
Meanwhile, the launch of Progress 68 resupply ship was scrubbed from Baikonur for an unknown reason. The launch of the Soyuz rocket has been rescheduled for no earlier than Saturday Oct. 14 at 4:46 am EDT (0846 GMT).
Launch crews in the United States, China and Japan are celebrating successful flights to start a busy launch week.
China got things started by launching the Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite aboard a Long March 2D rocket from Jiuquan.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 followed up with an early morning launch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The flight included the 17th successful landing of a Falcon 9 first stage.
The Japanese successfully launched the Michibiki 4 navigation satellite from the Tanegashima Space Center.
Below is the launch schedule for the rest of the month. It is possible that an Atlas V that had been scheduled to launch a national reconnaissance satellite last week will be added to the schedule for later this month. The launch was delayed twice due to weather and the third time because of a faulty telemetry transmitter. ULA has not set a new launch date.
Falcon 9 Payload: SES 11/EchoStar 105 communications satellite Launch window: 6:53-8:53 p.m. EDT (2253-0053 GMT) Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
The U.S. Air Force issued a request for proposals (RFP) last Thursday for a new launch vehicle to handle national security space (NSS) requirements.
“The goal of the EELV acquisition strategy is to leverage commercial launch solutions in order to have at least two domestic, commercial launch service providers that also meet NSS requirements, including the launch of the heaviest and most complex payloads,” the proposal states.
“The Launch Service Agreements (LSAs) facilitate development of at least three EELV Launch System prototypes as early as possible, allowing those launch systems to mature prior to a future selection of two NSS launch service providers for Phase 2 launch service procurements, starting in FY20,” the proposal adds. (more…)
UPDATE: The launch was scrubbed due to an issue with a telemetry transmitter on the vehicle. No new late date has been set yet.
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Calif. — The ULA Atlas V launch carrying the NROL-52 mission in support of national security remains on track. The mission, for the National Reconnaissance Office, is set to lift off on a ULA Atlas V rocket on Saturday, Oct. 7 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Today’s forecast shows a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The Oct. 7 launch time is 3:59 a.m. ET.
Launch Forecast Summary:
Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 40% Primary concerns: Cumulus Clouds and Thick Clouds Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 30% Primary concern: Cumulus Clouds
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V launch carrying the NROL-52 mission in support of national security.
The mission, for the National Reconnaissance Office, is set to lift off on a ULA Atlas V rocket on Thursday, Oct. 5 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Today’s L-4 forecast shows a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The Oct. 5 launch time is 4:07 a.m. ET.
Launch Forecast Summary:
Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 40% Primary concerns: Cumulus Clouds and Ground Winds Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 60% Primary concern: Cumulus Clouds
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Sept. 24, 2017 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3 on Sept. 23, at 10:49:47 p.m. PDT. Designated NROL-42, the mission is in support of national security.
“Congratulations to the entire team for overcoming multiple challenges throughout this launch campaign. From Hurricane Irma schedule impacts to replacing to a first stage battery this week – the team maintained a clear focus on mission success,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch. “NROL-42 marks the 25th ULA-launched NRO mission, building upon our legacy of partnership with the NRO in providing reliable access to space for our nation’s most critical missions.”
UPDATE: The launch has been postponed to no earlier than Saturday, Sept. 23. They need to replace a valve in the booster.
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (ULA PR) — The ULA launch readiness review was completed today everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V NROL-42 launch in support of national security.
The mission, for the National Reconnaissance Office, is set to lift off on a ULA Atlas V rocket on Thursday, Sept. 21 from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Today’s L-1 weather forecast continues to show 60% favorable conditions for launch. The launch time is 10:38 p.m. PDT.
Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 40% Areas of concern: Launch Visibility, Ground Winds Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 Hour Delay: 10% Areas of concern: Ground Winds
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Aug. 18, 2017 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the NASA’s Tracking Data and Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 Aug. 18 at 8:29 a.m. EDT. The TDRS-M is the third and final mission in the series of these third generation space communication satellites to orbit, as part of the follow-on fleet being developed to replenish NASA’s space Network.