Three Launches & a Hot Fire in Three Days

Fully loading the propellant and detecting no leaks is a major milestone for the Green Run test series. A total of 114 tanker trucks delivered propellant to six propellant barges next to the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA)

The upcoming holiday weekend (Martin Luther King Day on Monday) will see NASA conduct the long awaited Green Run hot fire of its Space Launch System rocket core and orbital launches by Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit and SpaceX involving 71 satellites.

Saturday, January 16

Launch Vehicle: Rocket Lab Electron
Mission Name: “Another One Leaves the Crust”
Payload: OHB Group micro communications satellites
Launch Time: 2:41 EST (0741 UTC)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com (begins 15 minutes prior to launch)

UPDATE: Launch scrubbed as engineers examine sensor data. They have a 10-day launch window.

Hot Fire: Space Launch System Core
Test Window: 5-7 p.m. EST (2200–0000 UTC)
Test Site: Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Webcast: www.nasa.gov (begins at 4:20 p.m. EST/2120 UTC)
Post-test Briefing: Approximately two hours after test completion on NASA website

Sunday, January 17

Launch Vehicle: Virgin Orbit LauncherOne/Cosmic Girl
Mission Name: NASA ELaNa-20 mission
Payloads: 10 CubeSats
Launch Window: 1:00-5:00 p.m. EST (1800-2200 UMT)
Launch Sites: Mojave Air and Space Port, California (Cosmic Girl Boeing 747), Pacific Ocean (LauncherOne)

Monday, January 18

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
Mission Name: Starlink V1.0-L16
Payloads: 60 Starlink broadband satellites
Launch Time: 8:45 a.m. EST (1345 UTC)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com (begins 15 minutes before launch)

MethaneSAT Signs Launch Contract with SpaceX

MethaneSAT (Credit: EDF)

SAN FRANCISCO, January 13, 2021 (MethaneSAT PR) — The nonprofit MethaneSAT LLC announced today that it has signed a contract with SpaceX to deliver its new satellite into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. Now under construction after completing an intensive design process, the MethaneSAT instrument is on schedule for a launch window that opens October 1, 2022.

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DARPA Satellites Damaged in Processing Accident, Removed from SpaceX Transporter-1 Rideshare Mission

When a SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with dozens of satellites aboard on the Transporter-1 rideshare mission later this month, it will do so without a pair of experimental satellites from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

SpaceNews reports the two small satellites that make up DARPA’s Mandrake 2 mission were damaged during a pre-launch processing mishap at SpaceX processing facility in Florida.

According to an industry source the mishap happened while the satellites were being stacked and the payload separation system was accidentally released. SpaceX did not respond to questions on what caused the mishap.

The Mandrake 2 satellites are equipped with optical inter-satellite links for broadband data transmission. DARPA is testing this technology as the possible basis of future optically meshed computer networks in low Earth orbit.

The satellites are part of DARPA’s Blackjack program, which is focused on developing advanced space technologies.

SpaceX’s Transporter-1 rideshare mission is now scheduled for Jan. 21 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Falcon 9 will deploy the payloads into sun-synchronous orbit.

SpaceX Plans First Launch of Year for Thursday Night

Falcon 9 launches the NROL-108 mission on Dec. 19, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Thursday, January 7 for launch of the Turksat 5A mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The four-hour launch window opens at 8:28 p.m. EST, or 01:28 UTC on January 8, and a back-up opportunity is available on Friday, January 8, with a four-hour launch window opening at 8:28 p.m. EST, or 01:28 UTC on January 9.

Falcon 9’s first stage booster previously supported launch of GPS III Space Vehicle 03 and two Starlink missions. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the Just Read the Instructions droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s fairing is also flight-proven: one half previously supported the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 mission and the other flew aboard the ANASIS-II mission.

You can watch a live webcast of this mission, which will begin about 15 minutes prior to liftoff, above.

The Year of the Four Spaceships: Final Report

Crew Dragon docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in February, I went out on a limb and predicted that 2020 could be the Year of the Four Spaceships, with SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic and reaching major milestones in human spaceflight. (See 2020: Four Spaceships & the End of America’s Cosmic Groundhog Day)

With the disruption and deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t the easiest year to get things done. Keeping that in mind, let’s see how the companies did in 2020. (Spoiler Alert: they came up a little short.)

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Space Florida Looks Back on a Busy Year

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (December 23, 2020) – Today, Space Florida shared the many accomplishments of Florida’s aerospace and commercial space industry in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s Cape Canaveral Spaceport kept launching rockets. In May, the world watched as American astronauts lifted off from Florida for the first time since 2011, marking a new era of human spaceflight and commercial space exploration. The aerospace industry represents a key part of the State’s strategy for post-pandemic economic recovery, and Space Florida has good reason to be enthusiastic about the future of aerospace.

“Despite the challenges that COVID-19 brought to the State, our industry and our organization, Space Florida is pleased to have had a successful year of growth within the aerospace industry here in the State of Florida, with support from Governor DeSantis as well as our Board Chair and Lieutenant Governor Nuñez,” said Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. “Space Florida is working with other economic development partners to create an energized driving force in recruiting these companies to the Sunshine State. The future of this industry is very bright, representing an increasingly important segment of Florida’s economy.

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Canada’s Top Space Highlights of 2020

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

LONGUEUIL, Que. (CSA PR) — It’s an understatement to say that 2020 was an exceptional year. As the year draws to a close, here’s a look at some of the most compelling, inspirational and incredible moments for Canada in space. Happy New Year!

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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China’s Long March 8 Rocket Makes Successful Debut in Step Toward Reusability

Long March 8 launches for the first time on Dec. 22, 2020. (Credit: CNSA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s newest booster, Long March 8, successfully placed five satellites into sun-synchronous orbit on Tuesday from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in a step toward partial reusability.

The medium-lift booster blasted off at 12:37 p.m. local time from Hainan island carrying the classified XJY-7 remote sensing technology test satellite and four smaller payloads.

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Rogozin Furious Over U.S. Sanctions on TsNIIMash, RSC Progress

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin is protesting the inclusion of Russian Mission Control operator TsNIIMash and Soyuz rocket manufacturer RSC Progress on a list of 103 Russian, Chinese and Venezuelan companies sanctioned by the U.S. government due to their connections to the defense sectors of their home nations.

“The [Military End User] List informs exporters, reexporters, and transferors that a license will be required to export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) designated items to listed entities,” the Commerce Department said in a press release.

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Exolaunch Integrates 30 Small Satellites for SpaceX First Dedicated Rideshare Launch

A rendering of rideshare smallsat deployments from Falcon 9 into space. (Credit: Exolaunch)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Exolaunch PR)–Exolaunch, the leading rideshare launch and deployment services provider for the NewSpace industry, begins its launch campaign to integrate 30 small satellites from the U.S. and Europe aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rideshare mission scheduled for no earlier than January 2021. This is the first dedicated rideshare mission of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program and the first of several rideshares Exolaunch is manifesting on Falcon 9 as part of a multi-launch agreement the company signed with SpaceX earlier this year.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches NRO Payload in Record 26th Successful Flight of Year

Falcon 9 launches the NROL-108 mission on Dec. 19, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Saturday, December 19 at 9:00 a.m. EST, Falcon 9 launched the NROL-108 mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, completing SpaceX’s 26th and final mission of 2020.

Falcon 9’s first stage booster previously supported launch of SpaceX’s 19th and 20th cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station, a Starlink mission, and the SAOCOM 1B mission.

Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida – the 70th landing for SpaceX.

Editor’s Note: SpaceX’s 26 launches is a new record for Elon Musk’s company in a calendar year. It was America’s 44th and final orbital launch attempt of the year. That is the highest number in more than 50 years.

Overall, there have been 110 launch attempts with 10 failures worldwide. Two more launches — Long March 8 from China, and a Soyuz-2 from Kourou — are scheduled before the end of the year. It’s possible China or Russia could conduct additional launches; these countries don’t always announce flights very far in advance.

SiriusXM’s New SXM-7 Satellite, Built by Maxar and Launched Aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, Performing Properly After Launch

Rendering of the SXM-7 satellite (Credit: Maxar Technologies)

SiriusXM’s new 1300-class satellite will provide continuous and expanded delivery of its audio entertainment and information services across North America

NEW YORK AND HAWTHORNE, CA, AND WESTMINSTER, COLO., December 13, 2020 (Maxar/Sirius XM PR) – Maxar Technologies (NYSE:MAXR) (TSX:MAXR), a trusted partner and innovator in Earth Intelligence and Space Infrastructure, SiriusXM, the leading audio entertainment company in the United States, and SpaceX, today announced that the SXM-7 satellite was successfully launched and is performing properly.

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Launch Updates: SpaceX, Virgin Galactic & Rocket Lab Shift Dates

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity makes first glide flight at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceX scrubbed the launch of the SXM-7 for SiriusXM satellite radio on Friday morning. The countdown for the Falcon 9 rocket was held at T-30 seconds.

“Standing down from today’s launch attempt to perform additional ground system checkouts; teams are working toward no earlier than Sunday, December 13 for next launch attempt of SXM-7,” SpaceX tweeted.

The window for Virgin Galactic’s first suborbital flight of SpaceShipTwo from Spaceport America in New Mexico opened on Friday. However, the company did not conduct a flight with scientific experiments.

“Good morning from NM. Vehicles and flight crew are ready. Flight window is now open. We will fly no earlier than Saturday. We have range clearance through the weekend and can extend into next week if necessary. Evaluating high-level winds and turbulence. Stay tuned for updates,” Virgin Galactic tweeted.

Rocket Lab has delayed its launch of the StriX-α synthetic aperture radar satellite from New Zealand by a day to Tuesday, Dec. 15 for a rather unusual reason.

“To avoid a solar eclipse that could affect Synspective’s mission, we’re now targeting Dec 15 for launch,” the company tweeted. “When customers request a new T-0, we’re happy to oblige. That’s the beauty of dedicated launch on Electron, our customers get to choose (and change!) their launch time.”

The target lift-off time for the The Owl’s Night Begins mission on Dec. 15 is:

UTC: 09:00-10:59
NZT: 22:00-23:59
JST: 18:00-19:59
PST: 01:00-02:59
EST: 04:00-05:59.

NASA, US, European Partner Satellite Returns First Sea Level Measurements

The data in this graphic are the first sea surface height measurements from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich (S6MF) satellite, which launched Nov. 21, 2020. They show the ocean off the southern tip of Africa, with red colors indicating higher sea level relative to blue areas, which are lower. (Credits: EUMETSAT)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, a joint U.S.-European satellite built to measure global sea surface height, has sent back its first measurements of sea level. The data provide information on sea surface height, wave height, and wind speed off the southern tip of Africa.

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