NASA’s Mission to Visit 8 Asteroids, Lucy, Launches on October 16th

An early morning launch is planned for the Lucy spacecraft, the first space mission to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. Tomorrow, October 16 at 5:34 a.m. EDT is the first day and time in Lucy’s 21-day launch window, and current weather conditions show a 90% chance of favorable conditions for liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The launch window remains open for 75 minutes.

Lucy will embark on a 12-year mission to explore the “fossils of planet formation,” Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid swarms. This mission provides the first opportunity to observe these intriguing objects close-up.

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Landsat 9 Joins a Fleet of Earth Observation Satellites

Earth has a new eye in orbit to monitor our changing planet.  

Landsat 9 launched on September 27, 2021 continuing the Landsat family of satellite’s nearly 50-year tradition of making critical observations to help with energy and water management, forest monitoring, human and environmental health, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture.

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Russia’s new Module Kicks the Station out of Position, Causes a Delay for Starliner

On July 28th, the International Space Station (ISS) suffered a mishap after a new Russian module (named Nauka) fired its thrusters just hours after arriving. As a result, the entire station was temporarily pushed out of position, forcibly delaying the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission. This would have been Boeing’s CT-100 Starliner’s second attempt to rendezvous with the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

The ISS managed to correct its orbit shortly thereafter, while the OFT-2 launch was delayed until the next available opportunity (Wednesday, Aug. 4th). Unfortunately, the mission was delayed again due to an issue with one of the valves on the spacecraft’s propulsion system. This prompted the ground crews to move the Starliner and Atlas V launch vehicle back into Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), so they can look for the source of the problem more closely.

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Starliner Will try Again on August 3 After ISS “Emergency”

The planned launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) has been pushed back to Tuesday, August 3 after a mishap involving a newly docked Russian module. Originally, Starliner’s flight was to take place today, July 30, 2021 but NASA and Boeing officials agreed to delay the flight following a “spacecraft emergency” on the space station after inadvertent thruster firings on the new Nauka module caused a loss of attitude control on the ISS.

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Blue Origin’s Latest New Shepard Flight is a Success, With Passengers Climbing on Board (and Getting off Again Before it Flew)

In 2000, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin, a commercial space company intended to become one of the crown jewels of his financial empire. Unfortunately, Blue Origin has lost ground in recent years to companies like SpaceX, which have been pushing the envelope with the development of reusable launch systems, resupply services, and human-rated spacecraft.

To address this, Bezos recently stepped down as CEO of Amazon to devote more attention to Blue Origin and other projects. On Wednesday, April 14th, the company hit a milestone when their New Shepard spacecraft (named in honor of famed astronaut Alan Shepard) conducted its fifteenth consecutive mission (NS-15) to space and back. This “crew rehearsal” mission brings Blue Origin one step closer to launching crews and tourists into space.

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SpaceX’s SN8 Starship Soars and Belly-Flops, but Fails to Stick the Landing. Oh Well, Bring on the SN9!

At long last, SpaceX has conducted the first high-altitude test flight with its prototype Starship vehicle! During the launch, the eighth iteration of their spacecraft (SN8) flew to an altitude of 12.5 km (~7.8 mi; 41,000 ft) and conducted some fancy maneuvers before returning to its landing pad. Unfortunately, the landing was a bit hot and the SN8 exploded as soon as it touched down.

Despite failing to make it home in one piece (technically it did, but then exploded), the SN8 validated the Starship design for high-altitude flight, a major stepping stone towards spaceflight. What’s more, the data they gathered from this test and the failed landing is already being used to prepare for the next flight. So really, this test was a very important milestone on the road to conducting regular flights to the Moon and Mars.

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China is Building a Floating Spaceport for Rocket Launches

In the near future, launch facilities located at sea are expected to be a lot more common. SpaceX announced that it is hoping to create offshore facilities in the near future for the sake of launching the Starship away from populated areas. And China, the latest member of the superpowers-in-space club, is currently building the “Eastern Aerospace Port” off the coast of Haiyang city in the eastern province of Shandong.

This mobile launch facility is being developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country’s largest aerospace and defense contractor. Once fully operational, it will be used to launch light vehicles, as well as for building and maintaining rockets, satellites, and related space applications. As China’s fifth launch facility, it will give the country’s space program a new degree of flexibility.

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Perseverance Rover Rumbles Off the Launchpad to Mars

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is now successfully on its journey to Mars, launching from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:50 am EDT (1150 GMT). Just minutes before the Atlas 5 rocket rumbled off the launchpad, a 2.9 magnitude earthquake rumbled out in California, giving a minor shake to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, the Control Center for the rover.

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Once Starship Prototypes are Done Exploding, we could see an Orbital Launch this Year

SpaceX has had a lot of ups and downs lately. On Saturday, May 30th, the company made history when their Crew Dragon spacecraft took off from the NASA Kennedy Space Center, carrying two astronauts to space. But just a day before, SpaceX engineers and ground crews watched their fourth Starship prototype (SN4) explode on its testbed during a static fire test, making it the fourth prototype in a row to be lost.

But according to recent news from a SpaceX engineer and executive, as well as an internal email from Elon Musk to SpaceX employees, it is clear that the company is all-in with the Starship prototype and could conduct an orbital flight before the end of the year. An ambitious goal, but you don’t get to be the head of a company that makes reusability a thing and restores domestic launch capability to US soil by being a pessimist!

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