SpaceX Launches Zuma But Satellite Fate Unknown; Falcon Heavy Rolled Out for Static Fire

Falcon 9 first stage launches Zuma spacecraft (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX launched a secret U.S. military satellite code named Zuma into space on Sunday evening. The company successfully landed the first stage of the Falcon 9 back at Cape Canaveral.

However, exactly what happened to the mysterious satellite remains a mystery nearly 24 hours after the launch. SpaceX says an analysis of data indicate the Falcon 9’s second stage performed nominally.

However, there are unconfirmed rumors that the satellite was lost. Rumors include the spacecraft being dead on orbit after separation from Falcon 9’s second stage, or re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere still attached to the stage.

Northrop Grumman, which built the spacecraft, is not commenting on the flight. The identity of the government agency the spacecraft was built for is not known. So, nobody from the government has confirmed whether the launch succeeded or not.

Meanwhile, SpaceX rolled out the first Falcon Heavy booster to Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center today. The company plans to conduct a brief static test of the rocket’s 27 first-stage engines for the first time. The rocket is set to make its maiden flight later this month from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

A Preview of Commercial Crew Activities for 2018


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA and industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, are targeting the return of human spaceflight from Florida’s Space Coast in 2018. Both companies are scheduled to begin flight tests to prove the space systems meet NASA’s requirements for certification in the coming year.

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Zuma Launch Delayed to SUnday

Update: Launch now delayed 24 hours by weather constraints. Sunday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m.

SpaceX has delayed the launch of the Zuma payload until Saturday, Jan. 6. The two hour launch window opens at 8 p.m. EST.

Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic Eye Human Spaceflights in 2018

New Shepard booster fires its engine just over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

While Boeing and SpaceX move toward flying astronauts to the International Space Station this year, there are two other companies working on restoring the ability to launch people into space from U.S. soil.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic aren’t attempting anything as ambitious as orbital flight. Their aim is to fly short suborbital hops that will give tourists and scientists several minutes of microgravity to float around and conduct experiments in.

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Mysterious Zuma Set to Zoom to Space Friday

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 is set to launch the mysterious Zuma payload on Friday, Jan. 5, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The two-hour launch window opens at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT on Saturday, Jan. 6).

Zuma is a code name for a satellite that Northrop Grumman built for an unidentified U.S. government agency. Nothing else is known about the payload.

SpaceX Leases Air Force Facility to Prepare Dragon Crew Capsules for Flight

Dragon 2 weldment and heat shield. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has taken another step forward toward flying astronauts to the space station.

In a sign that astronaut launches from Florida are growing nearer, SpaceX recently leased an Air Force facility where it will prepare Dragon capsules to fly crews to the International Space Station.

The 45th Space Wing said work on the capsule called Crew Dragon or Dragon 2 would take place in Area 59, a former satellite processing facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“This summer, they should be receiving their first Dragon 2 capsule, which will directly support NASA and the return of astronauts (launching into orbit) from U.S. soil,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, the Wing commander, at a recent transportation summit in Port Canaveral.

It’s unclear when SpaceX or Boeing will be ready to launch test flights of astronauts under NASA contracts.

Read the full story.

Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.

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Will Commercial Crew Come Through in 2018?


by Douglas Messier

Managing Editor

The last time Americans flew into space from U.S. soil was nearly seven years ago in July 2011. Four astronauts flew Atlantis to the International Space Station  (ISS) on the 135th and final mission of the 30-year space shuttle program.

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SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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Missions to Moon, Mars, Mercury & More Set for 2018

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

Updated with SpaceX’s Red Tesla launch.

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.
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Falcon Heavy Goes Vertical on Pad-39A for First Time

The rocket is undergoing a fit check on the launch pad. A brief static fire of the first stage’s 27 engines will follow in January prior to the maiden flight set for later in the month.

Falcon Heavy will be capable of lifting 63,800 kg (140,655 lb) to low Earth orbit, 26,700 kg (58,863 lb) to geosynchronous transfer orbit and 16,800 kg (37,038 lb) to Mars. That will make it the most powerful booster in the world.

The payload for the maiden flight will be a Red Tesla Roadster.

Cellular Dynamics International Sends Human iPSC-Derived Cardiomyocytes to ISS

MADISON, Wis., Dec. 27, 2017 (CDI PR)  — Cellular Dynamics International (CDI), a FUJIFILM company, the leading developer and manufacturer of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and differentiated tissue-specific iPSC-cells, announced that its iCell® Cardiomyocytes were launched into space via SpaceX’s 13th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station on Dec.15, 2017.

The purpose of the scientific research project utilizing CDI’s iCell Cardiomyocytes in space is to validate the function of NASA’s new Bioculture System for automated cell culture on the International Space Station and to study human cardiac cell function in microgravity.

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