Nancy Grace Roman Will be Launching on a Falcon Heavy Rocket

Artist's impression of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, named after NASA’s first Chief of Astronomy. Credits: NASA

In 2026, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (RST) – aka. the “Mother of Hubble” – will take to space and begin addressing some of the deepest mysteries of the Universe. This will include capturing the deepest field images of the cosmos, refining measurements of the Hubble Constant (aka. Hubble’s Law), and determining the role of Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the evolution of the cosmos. Alongside its next-generation partner, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the RST will acquire infrared images with over 200 times the surveying power of its predecessor with the same rich level of detail.

On Tuesday, July 19th, NASA announced that it had awarded SpaceX with a Launch Services (NLS) II contract to provide the rocket that will deploy the RST mission to space. As specified in the NLS II, the launch will take place in October 2026 (May 2027, at the latest) and consist of a Falcon Heavy rocket transporting the RST from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to orbit. This indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract is valued at approximately $255 million and covers the launch and other mission-related costs.

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SpaceX Shares an Image of the Super Heavy Booster Bristling With 33 Newly Installed Raptor Engines

Not long ago, SpaceX passed their Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) with the FAA, though many corrective actions were recommended. With this hurdle in its rearview mirror, SpaceX is busy preparing the Starship and Super Heavy prototypes for their orbital test flight. On Saturday (July 2nd), the company posted pictures on its Twitter feed that showed the Starship (SN24) and Super Heavy booster (BN7) outfitted with all the Raptor engines – 33 Raptors for the BN7, 6 for SN24 – that will take them to space.

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SpaceX is now Constructing the Starship Launch Tower at Cape Canaveral

The Starship and Superheavy fully stacked, standing behind the "Mechazilla" tower at Boca Chica, Texas. Credit: SpaceX

Remember Mechazilla, that tall launch tower at the SpaceX Starbase in Texas that will stack Starships and “catch” spent Super Heavy boosters? SpaceX began constructing an identical launch tower at Cape Canaveral in Florida, where Starships will also be launching from soon. This tower is taking shape alongside SpaceX’s Launch Complex-39A (LC-39A) facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Once complete, the launch tower will stand about 146 meters (~480 ft) in height, making it the second-tallest space-related structure on the East Coast, second to NASA’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

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Starship is one Step Closer to Flight

Credit: SpaceX

As Tom Petty famously sang, “waiting is the hardest part!” This has surely been the case for Elon Musk and the crews at the SpaceX Starbase near Boca Chica, Texas! As of this year, the company had finished flight tests with the Starship prototypes, built multiple Super Heavy boosters, test-fired the new Raptor 2.0 engines, finished the “Mechazilla” launch tower, and fully stacked the first orbital prototype (SN20 and BN4). They had even finished construction on the new Starship factory at Boca Chica, where Musk’s proposed fleet of reusable spacecraft will subsequently be produced.

Alas, that’s when an interminable delay set in! It all began when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began its environmental review of the Starbase in anticipation of orbital flight testing. This review was originally intended to wrap up in February but was extended until early June. However, on Monday, June 13th, the review officially concluded and declared that the Starbase was good to go for launch testing. With this major hurdle all but cleared, the company is just about ready to conduct its historic orbital flight test and validate the Starship and Super Heavy for commercial use.

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Starship Will Spit out Starlinks Like a Candy Dispenser

SpaceX’s massive and totally-reusable launch vehicle, the Starship and Super Heavy, is getting closer to its first orbital test flight! According to the flight plan filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), this will consist of a fully-stacked spacecraft and booster prototype (SN24 and BN7) taking off from the SpaceX Starbase near Boca Chica, Texas. The booster element will separate at suborbital altitude and land off the coast of Texas, while the Starship will carry on to an altitude of 200 km (125 mi), placing it in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

With this milestone in its rearview, SpaceX will have fully validated its super-heavy launch system and be ready to conduct crewed flights. According to previous statements by Musk, these flights will include payloads and crews destined for the Moon and Mars. During the SpaceX All-Hands Meeting – which took place on Sunday, June 5th – Musk showed how the Starship will also be used to deploy Starlink satellites like a “Pez dispenser.” This announcement and the slideshow presented at the meeting were shared by Musk via Twitter shortly thereafter.

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Crew-4 is off to the Station

Name someone who at some point in their life didn’t want to be an astronaut. The answer is no one. Ask any kid what they want to be when they grow up and they all say an astronaut. Being an astronaut is the ultimate dream job for everyone of all ages. Why? Because you get to go to space, and there’s nothing cooler than going into space. For context, even if you’re not a sports fan you have watched the Super Bowl at least once in your life. It is one of the most watched and most lauded sports championship games in the entire world, and yet despite all its media attention and halftime shows and all-time great finishes, the Super Bowl still holds a candle to being able to go to space. Eat your heart out, Tom Brady. Going into space is just awesome, and there’s nothing like it.

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Starship Could be Ready for an Orbital Flight in May

Starship and Super Heavy
SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy booster stand tall on the Starbase launch pad in Texas. Source: SpaceX via YouTube

SpaceX has enjoyed a lot of wins in the past few years. In addition to successfully glide-testing and landing multiple Starship prototypes, they’ve rolled out its first Super Heavy boosters, test-fired the new Raptor Vacuum engines, and assembled the “Mechazilla” launch tower at Boca Chica, Texas. They also unveiled the first fully-furbished orbital test vehicle (SN20) that was stacked with a first stage booster for the first time on its launch pad.

Given the prodigious rate of progress, few were surprised when Musk announced that the first orbital flight test could take place as soon as January 2022. Unfortunately, this date had to be pushed back to an environmental assessment and the usual bureaucratic rigmarole. However, Musk recently announced on Twitter that in light of his company’s success with the new Raptor engines, they could be ready to conduct the long-awaited orbital test flight this May.

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Starlink is the Only Communications Link for Some Ukrainian Towns, but the Terminals Could Also be a Target

A team of engineers from the University of Glasgow and the Ukraine have created an engine that could cut costs by "eating itself". Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to an outpouring of support and material aid from the international community. For his part, Elon Musk obliged Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov‘s request for assistance by sending free Starlink terminals to Ukraine. For some besieged communities, like the city of Mariupol, this service constitutes the only means of getting up-to-date information, communicating with family members, or sharing their stories from the front lines of the war.

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and its Minister of Digital Transformation, thanked Musk on Twitter for the devices. However, there is also the possibility that as the fighting continues, Starlink transmissions could become beacons for Russian airstrikes. John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher with The Citizen Lab (University of Toronto), pointed out this potential danger via Twitter and even recommended strategies for how this can be avoided.

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Civilian Astronauts are Going to try Spacewalking From a Crew Dragon Capsule

Artist concept of the Polaris Dawn mission with the first commercial spacewalk. Image via Polaris.

Tech billionaire Jared Isaacman who flew to space on the Inspiration4 mission last year has announced another flight, with the aim of conducting the first-ever commercial spacewalk.

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Musk Shows how They’re Planning to Catch SuperHeavy Boosters

SpaceX’s entire business model is based on the reusability of its rockets.  That business model has proven viable time and time again as boosters continue to land safely only to be reused later.  But as the rockets they’re using get bigger and bigger, the harder and harder it will get for them to land directly on the ground, as models they’ve completed so far have.  So for its SuperHeavy Booster, designed to launch its Starship craft into orbit, SpaceX has to develop a new way of capturing the rockets without damaging them. Its head, Elon Musk, has shared a Twitter video showing how it will do just that.

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