SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Satellites, First Stage Lands for Record 8th Time

Falcon 9 lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Wednesday, January 20 at 8:02 a.m. EST, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites to orbit from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center, completing the seventeenth Starlink mission.

Following first-stage separation, Falcon 9 successfully landed for the eighth time on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage booster rocket previously supported seven other missions: the SXM-7 mission in December 2020, launch of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission in June 2019, launch of Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission in March 2019, and four Starlink missions. One half of Falcon 9’s fairing previously supported a Starlink mission and the other previously supported two.

Satellogic and SpaceX Announce Multiple Launch Agreement

Falcon 9 launches the Turksat 5A satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

First mission, scheduled for mid-2021, will further expand Satellogic’s industry-leading in-orbit capacity

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (Satellogic PR) – -Satellogic, the first company to develop a scalable Earth observation platform with the ability to remap the entire planet at both high-frequency and high-resolution, today announced a Multiple Launch Services Agreement (MLA) with SpaceX. Through the agreement, SpaceX becomes Satellogic’s preferred vendor for rideshare missions. The first launch, scheduled for June 2021, will deliver Satellogic satellites to Low Earth Orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket.

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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)

SpaceX CRS-21 Safely Splashes Down Off the Coast of Florida, Returning Science From the Space Station Back to Earth

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., January 14, 2021 (CASIS PR)  – SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely off the coast of Florida last night, concluding a month-plus stay at the International Space Station (ISS) to bring back thousands of pounds of scientific research and cargo.

With this successful splashdown, SpaceX completed its 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the orbiting laboratory for NASA. This also marks the first mission of the upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft with double the powered locker capacity of previous capsules, allowing for even more research to travel back to Earth for analysis.

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EU Eyes Satellite Broadband Network

Concerned about being left behind, the European Union (EU) is looking to develop a satellite broadband constellation to keep up with systems being built by OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink.

BBC News reports that EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton believes there’s not a moment to lose.

“My objective is to go fast. And therefore it would be appropriate that the Commission puts forward this year a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council so we can move concretely,” he told the 13th European Space Conference on Tuesday.

“To be ready, we launched a few weeks ago a study on a secure space-based connectivity system. The selected consortium consisting of European satellite manufacturers, operators and service providers, telco operators and launch service providers will study the possible design and development of this project.”

“This will provide insights on the technical dimension, but also the governance structure, the financing, the missions, the exact scope. I expect their first feedback in April this year.”

[….]

[EU officials] talk about a mix of low, medium and geostationary satellites that use advanced quantum encryption, are interlinked with optical connectors, and which piggyback sensors that might also be used to monitor aviation and shipping – just as examples. But, they argue, fast, secure, low-latency, space-borne connectivity will be the must-have capability to enable a raft of coming technologies, such as self-driving cars.

EU officials are hoping to have some initial capability as early as 2024.

SpaceX Cargo Dragon Spacecraft Splashes Down With Science Payloads

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle begins its separation from the station after undocking from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 8:26 p.m. EST west of Tampa off the Florida coast, marking the return of the company’s 21st contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft carried more than 4,400 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo back to Earth.

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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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SpaceX Waves off Undocking of Cargo Dragon

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — As a result of adverse weather conditions at the targeted splashdown zone off the coast of Daytona Beach, Florida, SpaceX has waved off today’s planned departure of an upgraded SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft.

Teams are currently assessing weather conditions to determine the next opportunity for undocking.

Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

For updated information about space station activities, visit:  https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @issISS on Facebook, and on Twitter  @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

SpaceX, L3Harris Win Space Development Agency Awards After Unsuccessful Challenges

National Defense Space Architecture tracking layer. (Credit: Department of Defense)

The Space Development Agency has reaffirmed its decision to award contracts to build missile warning satellites to L3Harris and SpaceX following unsuccessful appeals by rival bidders.

L3Harris and SpaceX will each build four satellites to detect and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles as part of the agency’s Tracking Layer Tranche 0 program. L3Harris received a $193.5 million contract while SpaceX’s contract is worth $149 million.

The Space Development Agency awarded the contracts in October. However, the agency placed issued temporary stop-work orders after Airbus and Raytheon filed protests with the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

SpaceNews reports that the Space Development Agency agreed to reevaluate the selection process in response to the protests. The second review reaffirmed the original decision to award the contracts to L3Harris and SpaceX. GAO has dismissed the protests filed by Airbus and Raytheon.

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 Dragon Capsule to Make First of Its Kind Science Splashdown

NASA astronaut and Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Kate Rubins works inside the Life Sciences Glovebox conducting research for the Cardinal Heart study. The biomedical research seeks to help scientists understand the aging and weakening of heart muscles to provide new treatments for humans on Earth and astronauts in space. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — By capsule, helicopter, boat, plane, and car, space station science experiments are about to make a first of a kind journey back to researchers on Earth.

On Jan. 11, the SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft carrying out the company’s 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) mission for NASA undocks from the International Space Station, heading for splashdown off the coast of Florida about 12 hours later. This upgraded Dragon transports significantly more science back to Earth than possible in previous Dragon capsules and is the first space station cargo capsule to splash down off the coast of Florida.

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NASA, FAA Partnership Bolsters American Commercial Space Activities

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) reaffirming the agencies’ longstanding relationship to foster robust American commercial space transportation capabilities, including commercial crew and cargo activities.

The NASA-FAA MOU follows the success of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 launch – the first crewed mission from American soil to be licensed by the FAA.

The new agreement will support the transportation of government and non-government passengers, cargo, and other payloads for orbital and suborbital space missions in a safe and cost-effective manner, as well as streamline spaceflight standards and requirements.

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Momentus Pulls Vigoride From SpaceX Falcon 9 Transporter-1 Launch

Vigoride (Credit: Momentus)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Momentus PR) –Momentus Inc. (“Momentus” or the “Company”), a commercial space company providing in-space infrastructure services announced today that it will be remanifesting its January 2021 mission to a subsequent launch opportunity in 2021. This move will allow for the additional time necessary to secure FAA approval of Momentus’ payloads, including completion of a standard interagency review. Momentus currently holds all other necessary licenses for its Vigoride vehicle.

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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.