SpaceX Wins $109.4 Million Contract to Launch NASA Satellites on Falcon 9

Falcon 9 lifts off with the SAOCOM 1B satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission, which includes four secondary payloads.

IMAP will help researchers better understand the boundary of the heliosphere, a magnetic barrier surrounding our solar system. This region is where the constant flow of particles from our Sun, called the solar wind, collides with winds from other stars. This collision limits the amount of harmful cosmic radiation entering the heliosphere.

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U.S. Defense Payloads to Fly on Reused SpaceX Boosters

Falcon 9 lifts off with the SAOCOM 1B satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (SMC PR) — The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) recently signed a contract modification to reuse a Falcon 9 first-stage booster – for the first time on a National Security Space Launch mission – starting with the fifth Global Positioning System (GPS)-III satellite, scheduled to launch next year.

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Five Launches Scheduled Over Three Days

Falcon 9 payload shroud. (Credit: SpaceX)

Things are about to get very busy, with four American launches and a Russian one planned over a three-day period beginning on Sunday, Sept. 27.

Here’s the schedule as it stands now. Schedule subject to change without notice. Wagering strictly under penalty of law.

Sunday, September 27

Launch Vehicle: Delta IV Heavy
Payload: NROL-44 reconnaissance satellite
Time: 12:10 a.m. EDT (1610 GMT)
Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: 60 Starlink satellite broadband spacecraft
Time: 10:43 a.m. EDT (1443 GMT)
Location: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

Monday, September 28

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payloads: 3 Gonets M communications satellites plus rideshares
Time: 7:20 a.m. EDT (1120 GMT)
Location:
Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

Tuesday, September 29

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: GPS 3 SV04 navigation satellite
Time: 9:55 p.m. (0155 GMT)
Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

Launch Vehicle: Antares
Payload: NG-14 — Cygnus International Space Station resupply ship
Time: 10:27 p.m. EDT (0227 GMT on Sept. 30)
Location:
Wallops Island, Va.
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

Shotwell, Koch and Meir Make Time’s 100 Most Influential People List

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell and NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir have made Time magazine’s list of The 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

Shotwell is listed in the Titans category and credited with guiding SpaceX to success.

“She is not only a quintessential engineer with a passion to build things, but also a “people engineer” who thrives on working with colleagues and customers. Gwynne Shotwell is helping to launch our future, and I can’t wait to see what she does next,” former NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan wrote.

Koch and Meir were listed together in the Pioneers category for conducting the first all-female spacewalk from the International Space Station in October 2019.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are inside the Quest airlock preparing the U.S. spacesuits and tools they will use on their first spacewalk together. (Credit: NASA)

“I believe that Koch and Meir, by their sheer skill and execution, shift us closer to a template based on intelligence, agility, capability, integrity, courage and excellence,” wrote former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison.

Read Jemison’s tribute to Koch and Meir here.

Legendary Ventures Invests in SpaceX Starlink Constellation

Sixty Starlink satellites separate from a Falcon 9 second stage on April 22, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX website)

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 22, 2020 (Legendary Ventures PR) — Legendary Ventures announced today an investment in Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (“SpaceX”) through its Series N funding round.

Founded by Elon Musk, SpaceX is an aviation and aerospace company that designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecrafts, including the Starlink satellite constellation.

With this investment, Legendary Ventures continues to execute its strategy of investing in consumer, retail and technology companies, including businesses with enterprise values ranging between $1 billion and $100 billion (USD).

“We are honored to be a part of the SpaceX effort to usher in a new era of space exploration, telecommunications, and travel,” says Jayson Kim, General Partner of Legendary Ventures.

About Legendary Ventures

Legendary Ventures is a venture capital firm that accelerates value creation for early-stage startups in the consumer, retail and technology industries. For more information about the firm or its funds, visit  https://legendary.vc

Pixxel Enters Service Agreement with Momentus for Second Satellite Launch

SANTA CLARA, Calif. and Bangalore, India, September 22, 2020 (Momentus PR) — Momentus Inc. (“Momentus” or the “Company”), a commercial space company providing in-space satellite transportation and infrastructure services, and Pixxel, a Bengaluru headquartered space-tech startup, today announced the execution of a service agreement for delivering Pixxel’s second smallsat to SSO orbit in December 2021 onboard a SpaceX Falcon-9 launch, as well as options to fly again in 2022.

Pixxel is building a constellation of cutting-edge earth imaging small satellites that can provide real-time remote sensing data across the world. The Momentus Shuttle Service will provide a rideshare for multiple Pixxel spacecraft to predefined orbits.

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SpaceX Postpones Starlink Launch Again

SpaceX has postponed the launch of 60 Starlink satellites from Florida again. The launch was canceled on Thursday and again today due to adverse weather in the Atlantic Ocean where the Falcon 9 first stage was to land on a drone ship.

SpaceX has said weather is expected to be unacceptable for the next several days. The company has not announced a new date for the launch of the 13th batch of the Internet broadband satellites.

Intelsat Finalizes Satellite and Launch Vehicle Contracts for U.S. C-band Spectrum Transition

McLean, Va. (Intelsat PR) – Intelsat, operator of the world’s largest integrated satellite and terrestrial network, today announced it has finalized all of its required contracts with satellite manufacturers and launch-vehicle providers to move forward and meet the accelerated C-band spectrum clearing timelines established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this year.

The company has entered into a formal agreement with U.S.-based Maxar Technologies to build the final satellite required to support its C-band transition and maintain the FCC’s post-transition, “same or better” quality-of-service standard. Earlier this summer, Intelsat announced manufacturing contracts with Maxar and U.S.-based Northrop Grumman for six satellites.

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Report: Space Hero Reality Show to Blast Contestant into Orbit

International Space Station (Credit: NASA/Roscosmos)

There’s yet another plan to send a contestant to space through a reality show. Deadline Hollywood reports:

Space Hero Inc., a U.S.-based production company founded by Thomas Reemer and Deborah Sass and led by former News Corp Europe chief Marty Pompadur, has secured a seat on a 2023 mission to the International Space Station. It will go to a contestant chosen through an unscripted show titled Space Hero. Produced by Ben Silverman and Howard Owens’ Propagate, the series will launch a global search for everyday people from any background who share a deep love for space exploration. They will be vying for the biggest prize ever awarded on TV.

The selected group of contestants will undergo extensive training and face challenges testing their physical, mental and emotional strength, qualities that are essential for an astronaut in space. I hear the idea is for the culmination of the competition to be in a an episode broadcast live around the world where viewers from different countries can vote for the contestant they want to see going to space. The show will then chronicle the winner’s takeoff; their stay at the ISS for 10 days alongside professional astronauts traveling at 17,000 mph, orbiting the Earth 16 times a day; and end with their return to Earth. The Space Hero company is currently in discussions with NASA for a potential partnership on STEM initiatives onboard the ISS.

The trip of the Space Hero winner will be on a SpaceX Dragon rocket. Space Hero, billed as the first space media company, is working with Axiom Space, manufacturer of the world’s first privately funded commercial space station — a module for the ISS where the private astronauts can stay — and full-service human spaceflight mission provider.

This effort seems a bit more solid than previous plans in that there’s an actual spaceship to take them there. Time will tell.

SpaceX to Launch Starlink Satellites Today

Update: SpaceX canceled the launch for Thursday due to an issue with booster recovery. It will attempt to launch on Friday, September 18 at 1:57 p.m. EDT.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Thursday, September 17 at 2:19 p.m. EDT, 18:19 UTC, for launch of its thirteenth Starlink mission, which will launch 60 Starlink satellites to orbit. Falcon 9 will lift off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A backup opportunity is available on Friday, September 18 at 1:57 p.m. EDT, 17:57 UTC.

Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported launch of Crew Dragon’s first flight to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts onboard and the ANASIS-II mission. 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. One of Falcon 9’s fairing halves supported two previous Starlink launches.

The Starlink satellites will deploy approximately 1 hour and 1 minute after liftoff.  You can watch the launch webcast here, starting about 10 minutes before liftoff. If you would like to receive updates on Starlink news and service availability in your area, please visit starlink.com.

SpaceX, Boeing & Firefly File FCC Applications for Fall Flights

Starship hopper under construction at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has applied for a temporary Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license to fly its Starship prototype to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles) from its Boca Chica test site in Texas.

The approval would be valid for hops from Oct. 11, 2020 to April 11, 2021. Starship prototypes have flown to an altitude of 150 meters from Boca Chica.

Boeing has filed for a FCC license for its second Starliner orbital flight test. The application covers a six-month period from Nov. 1, 2020 to May 1, 2021.

The uncrewed Starliner test is a repeat of a flight that went awry last December. The spacecraft failed to dock with the space station due to software and communications problems.

Firefly Aerospace has filed for approval for the maiden flight of its Firefly Alpha booster from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The approval would be valid from Nov. 21, 2020 until May 21, 2021.

Apha is designed to loft 1 metric ton into low Earth orbit and 630 kg into a 500 km sun synchronous orbit at a dedicated mission cost of $15 million.

Boeing Faces Independent Compliance & Ethics Review

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

Reuters reports that Boeing has submitted to an independent review of its compliance and ethics practices under an agreement with NASA and the U.S. Air Force in the wake of scandal relating to its bid to built the space agency’s crewed lunar lander.

The agreement, signed in August, comes as federal prosecutors continue a criminal investigation into whether NASA’s former human exploration chief, Doug Loverro, improperly guided Boeing space executive Jim Chilton during the contract bidding process.

By agreeing to the “Compliance Program Enhancements”, the aerospace heavyweight staves off harsher consequences from NASA and the Air Force – its space division’s top customers – such as being suspended or debarred from bidding on future space contracts.

The agreement calls for Boeing to pay a “third party expert” to assess its ethics and compliance programs and review training procedures for executives who liaise with government officials, citing “concerns related to procurement integrity” during NASA’s Human Landing System competition.

Loverro resigned his NASA post in May. Reuters reports that Boeing has fired a company attorney and a number of mid-level employees. The company has also revised its procurement procedures.

NASA rejected Boeing bid on the human lander for the Artemis program, which aims to land two astronauts at the south pole of the moon in 2024.

NASA awarded study contracts to Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX. The space agency plans to award a multi-billion contract to build the lander.