NASA Shows Perseverance with Mars 2020 Helicopter, Cruise Stage Testing

NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020. (Credit: NASA/Cory Huston)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The Mars 2020 mission involving NASA’s newly named rover — Perseverance — received a significant boost following the completion of important testing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

(more…)

Upcoming Launches to Close Out March

Astra Space 1 of 3 rocket on the launch pad in Alaska. (Credit: DARPA webcast)

Here’s quick look at the launches scheduled for the rest of March. Information from Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for March 30 is listed. However, unofficial reports say it has been delayed indefinitely due to travel restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The booster will launch the SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite for Argentine.

What the months ahead hold in terms of launch is uncertain. Europe has suspended flights out of its launch base in French Guiana. Whether other spaceports are closed remains to be seen. China appears to have weathered the worst of the virus.

I would expect crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS) to continue. The first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to ISS is scheduled for mid- to late May. It’s difficult to say whether that schedule will hold.

March 23/24

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C
Payloads: 3 Yaogan 30-06 military surveillance satellites
Launch Time: Approximately 11:40 p.m. EDT on 23rd (0340 GMT on 24th)
Launch Site: Xichang, China

UPDATE: Launch successful.

March 24

Launch Vehicle: Astra Rocket 3.0 “1 of 3”
Payloads: TBA
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Pacific Spaceport Complex, Alaska

UPDATE: Media report of an “anomaly” during a dress rehearsal on Monday.. Extend of anomaly and new schedule uncertain. Doesn’t sound like they’re launching on Tuesday. More details here: https://kmxt.org/2020/03/anomaly-at-pacific-spaceport-complex-launch-rehearsal-no-injuries-as-a-result/

March 26

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: AEHF 6 military communications satellite
Launch Window: 2:57-4:57 p.m. EDT (1857-2057 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com

March 29

Launch Vehicle: Electron “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Payloads: Multiple CubeSats
Launch Window: 12:43-2:33 a.m. EDT (0443-0633 GMT)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com/

UPDATE: Rocket Lab has suspended preparations on this launch due to the coronavirus.

March 30
(Possibly Postponed)

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite
Launch Time: 7:21 p.m. EDT (2321 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

ULA Atlas V Launch Set for Thursday

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch carrying the AEHF-6 mission for the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

The mission is set to lift off on Thursday, March 26 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The two-hour launch window begins at 2:57 p.m. ET.

Live broadcast coverage of launch will begin at 2:37 p.m. ET on March 26. Live launch updates and webcast available at: www.ulalaunch.com.

(more…)

Startups Launch Innovative R&D on SpaceX CRS-20 to Improve Patient Care on Earth

Falcon 9 lifts off with the the cargo Dragon CRS-20 mission. (Credit: NASA webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. March 6, 2020 (ISS National Lab PR)  – What if the next breakthrough to improve patient care on Earth came from research off of Earth—in space? Three biotechnology startups have launched research to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, tackling a broad range of patient care objectives—from next-generation diagnostic tools to drug discovery and improved devices for drug delivery.

(more…)

SpaceX to Launch Dragon Mission to ISS Friday Night

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Friday, March 6 for launch of its twentieth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-20), which will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Launch is targeted for 11:50 p.m. EST, or 4:50 UTC on Saturday, March 7.

Dragon will separate from Falcon 9’s second stage about nine minutes after liftoff and attach to the space station on Monday, March 9. A backup launch opportunity is available on Saturday, March 7 at 11:27 p.m. EST, or 4:27 UTC on Sunday, March 8.

(more…)

Janus Satellite to Explore Binary Asteroid

NASA rendering of a Janus satellite rendezvousing with a binary asteroid. (Credit: NASA)

Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon Heavy (secondary payload on Psyche mission)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Date: July 2022
NASA Program: Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx)

Description

Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” asteroids and build an accurate model of two binary asteroid bodies. A binary asteroid is a system of two asteroids orbiting their common center of mass.

The principal investigator is Daniel Scheeres at the University of Colorado. Lockheed Martin will provide project management.

SIMPLEx

Using small spacecraft – less than 400 pounds, or 180 kilograms, in mass – SIMPLEx selections will conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. Each will share their ride to space with either another NASA mission or a commercial launch opportunity.

Janus will be managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as part of the Solar System Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Small Satellites to Study Martian Atmosphere

The twin EscaPADE satellites will fly to Mars and circle the planet in complementary orbits to sample the hot ionized plasma (cross section in yellow and green) and magnetic fields (blue lines) to understand how Mars’ atmosphere escapes into space. (Credit: UC Berkeley/Robert Lillis)

Escape and Plasma Acceleration
and Dynamics Explorers (EscaPADE)

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon Heavy (secondary payload on Psyche mission)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Date: July 2022
NASA Program: Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx)

Description

This mission’s objective is to characterize (on multiple scales) the acceleration processes driving escape from Mars’ atmosphere, as well as how the atmosphere responds to the constant outflow of the solar wind flowing off the Sun.

The principal investigator for this mission is Robert Lillis at the University of California, Berkeley. UC Berkeley will also provide project management.

SIMPLEx

Using small spacecraft – less than 400 pounds, or 180 kilograms, in mass – SIMPLEx selections will conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. Each will share their ride to space with either another NASA mission or a commercial launch opportunity.

EscaPADE will be managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as part of the Solar System Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA Selects SpaceX Falcon Heavy to Launch Psyche Mission

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Psyche mission. The Psyche mission currently is targeted to launch in July 2022 on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The total cost for NASA to launch Psyche and the secondary payloads is approximately $117 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

(more…)

SpaceX Could Launch 70 Times From Florida in 2023

Mobile service tower surrounding Falcon Heavy booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX would be launching up to 70 times annually from Florida by 2023, including polar orbit launches that are not currently conducted from the Sunshine State.

Elon Musk’s rocket company is also planning to construct a mobile service tower (MST) to support commercial and national security launches from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

(more…)

More Than 20 ISS National Lab-sponsored Payloads Set to Launch on SpaceX CRS-20

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), February 27, 2020 – When the Dragon spacecraft launches on SpaceX’s 20th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission (contracted through NASA) to the International Space Station (ISS), it will do so with dozens of research experiments to be executed on the orbiting laboratory over the coming months. In particular, the ISS U.S. National Laboratory is sponsoring more than 20 separate payloads on this mission that will leverage the unique space-based environment of station to benefit life on Earth.

Launching no earlier than 11:50 p.m. ET on Friday, March 6 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, this mission carries with it a wide variety of research investigations—several funded by private companies focused on technologies critical to their commercial success and others supported by external funds focused on science questions to improve knowledge and human health.

(more…)

SpaceX Launches Fifth Starlink Mission

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Monday, February 17 at 10:05 a.m. EST, or 15:05 UTC, SpaceX launched its fifth Starlink mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Falcon 9’s first stage previously launched the CRS-17 mission in May 2019, the CRS-18 mission in July 2019, and the JCSAT-18/Kacific1 mission in December 2019.

(more…)

Your Weekend Rocket Forecast

Antares with Cygnus CRS-13 spacecraft on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA)

Friday, February 14
Saturday, February 15

Launch Vehicle: Antares
Payload: Cygnus (NG-13)
Launch Time: 3:21 p.m. EST (2021 GMT) 3:43 p.m. EST (2043 GMT)
Launch Site: NASA Wallops Flight Facility (Virginia)
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

Northrop Grumman will launch a Cygnus resupply ship to the International Space Station.

Update: The launch was scrubbed on Friday due to unfavorable upper level winds.

Saturday, February 15
Sunday, February 16
Monday, February 17

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: 60 Starlink satellites
Launch Time: TBA 10:25 a.m. EST (1525 GMT) 10:46 a.m. EST (1546 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX will launch 60 Starlink broadband satellites. The flight will add to the 242 Starlink satellites already launched.

Update: Launch postponed due to predicted poor weather in the first stage recovery area.

Update No. 2: Launch scrubbed to check on second stage valve. Now aiming for Monday.

Solar Orbiter Launch Takes Solar Science to New Heights

Launch of the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter mission to study the Sun from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 9, 2020. (Credits: Jared Frankle, NASA Solar Orbiter Social Participant)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — Solar Orbiter, a new collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to study the Sun, launched at 11:03 p.m. EST Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

At 12:24 a.m. Monday, mission controllers at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, received a signal from the spacecraft indicating that its solar panels had successfully deployed.

(more…)

Atlas V Launches Solar Orbiter

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is prepared for encapsulation in the Atlas V payload fairing. In this image, the front layer of thin titanium foil and star-shaped brackets are visible. The front layer reflects heat, while the brackets provide support. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster successfully launched the joint ESA-NASA Solar Orbiter on a mission to study the Sun from Cape Canaveral on Sunday night.

Ground controllers confirmed the receipt of a signal from the spacecraft after it separated from the Centaur second stage of the launch vehicle.

Solar Orbiter is an international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. The spacecraft will observe the Sun with high spatial resolution telescopes and capture observations in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft to create a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system.

The spacecraft also will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles and the never-before-observed magnetic environment there, which helps drive the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.

United Launch Alliance Set to Launch Solar Orbiter for NASA and ESA

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Credit: ULA)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Feb. 7, 2020 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the Solar Orbiter mission, an international cooperative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. The launch is on track for Feb. 9 at Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Launch is planned for 11:03 p.m. EST at the opening of a two-hour launch window. The live launch broadcast begins at 10:30 p.m. EST on NASA TV at and www.ulalaunch.com.

(more…)