This past week was a mixed bag for Relativity Space and their 3D-printed methane-fueled rocket engine. While the company’s Terran 1 rocket blasted off successfully on Wednesday, March 22, the second stage failed to ignite a few minutes after launch. The rocket coasted to an altitude of about 129 km and then returned to Earth, crashing a few hundred kilometers downrange.
But Relativity Space counted this first launch attempt as a success.
It looks like South Korea just joined the most exclusive club on the planet! With the launch of its Korea Satellite Launch Vehicle II (KSLV-II aka. the “Nuri” rocket) on June 21st, the country became the latest nation to demonstrate its ability to build and launch its own rockets to space. This was the Nuri’s second launch attempt, which took place eight months after the first attempt failed to deliver a test satellite to orbit back. This time, the rocket managed to reach space and deliver a payload of satellites, making South Korea the eleventh nation to launch from its soil and the seventh to launch commercial satellites.
Update: SpaceX has posted footage of what its like to see Earth from space when peering through the Resilience‘s cupola!
Today, history was made when the first all-civilian spaceflight launched from Launch Complex 39A at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The purpose of this flight was to raise awareness and funds for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and offer inspiration to people all over the world. Operated by SpaceX and sponsored by Jared Isaacman and Shift4Payments, this flight illustrates how accessibility to space is growing by leaps and bounds.
The mission began at 08:02 PM local time (05:02 PM PST) as the Crew Dragon spacecraft blasted off the launch pad atop a SpaceX Falcon 9. The rocket lifted off without any issues and soared into the night sky, rapidly gaining altitude towards orbit. During the next few minutes, the mission controllers at SpaceX watched in anticipation and waited for updates. They were joined by people all over the world watching the many live streams of the event.
The purpose of this mission is to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which specializes in the treatment of childhood cancers and pediatric diseases. At the same time, it demonstrates the accessibility of the modern space age, where civilians (and not just astronauts) can go to space. Universe Today’s own Alex Brock was on the scene to capture the pre-flight excitement, which was palatable!
In ten days, SpaceX and the payment processing company Shift4Payments will be making history as four commercial astronauts board the Crew DragonResilience and fly to space. This mission, known as Inspiration4, will be the first all-civilian flight in history, the purpose of which will be to raise awareness, funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and inspire the next generation to seek out education and employment in the STEM fields.
In preparation for this moment in spaceflight history, the four-person crew got a chance to see a key piece of hardware that will make the mission special. This was the Crew Dragon cupola, a domed glass window that replaced the usual docking adapter on the front of the spacecraft. Before it was shipped off to Florida to be integrated with the rest of the spacecraft, the crew got a chance to peer through the dome and imagine what it will be like to do so in space!
Blue Origin has taken some serious steps of late to stay in the commercial space game! Ever since founder Jeff Bezos decided to step down as CEO of Amazon to focus on this brainchild of his, the company has been shaking things up and forging on ahead, hoping to become one of the most competitive and lucrative privately-owned launch services in the world. From the launchpad to the courtroom, they are making their presence felt.
Earlier today, the company completed its 17th mission (NS-17) with the New Shepard launch vehicle, a reusable vertical-takeoff and vertical-landing (VTOL) crew-rated launch vehicle designed to bring small payloads and crews to suborbital altitudes and back again safely. This was also the 8th consecutive time this particular vehicle successfully launched and returned to Earth while carrying some interesting science experiments.
Early this morning, Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic achieved a major milestone in the development of commercial space travel. Along with a team of specialists, Branson traveled to the edge of space aboard the VSS Unity and made it safely back to Earth. In so doing, Branson and his company have also fired the latest salvo in the ongoing race between the titans of the commercial space industry (aka. NewSpace).
This month, two billionaires will be flying to space aboard their very own commercial launch vehicles. The first to go will be Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who will be a passenger aboard the inaugural crewed flight of the New Shepard on July 20th. Mark Bezos, Jeff’s brother, will be accompanying him on this flight, as will the person who won the auction that wrapped up on June 12th (they bid $28 million for the seat).
On July 1st, Blue Origin announced that the fourth passenger on this historic flight would be Wally Funk, a pioneer in aerospace who trained to become an astronaut back in the 1960s. As part of the “Mercury 13” Woman in Space Program, Funk was one of several qualified test pilots and graduated at the top of her class. And now, sixty years later, she is once again a pioneer since she is the oldest person that has ever flown to space.
In recent years, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has watched his commercial space company, Blue Origin, lose ground to the competition. While SpaceX has progressed by leaps and bounds towards realizing regular launches to the Moon and Mars (with the fully-reusable Starship), Blue Origin has been stuck in development hell with its launch vehicles. For this reason, Bezos announced that he would be stepping down as CEO of Amazon to focus on his fledgling space company.
So far, this decision has borne fruit, with the successful suborbital flight test of the New Shepard rocket that took place this past April. Stepping things up a notch, Bezos recently announced that when the first crewed flight of the New Shepard happens later this summer, he will be among the passengers. Scheduled to take place on July 20th, this mission will see Bezos and his younger brother Mark become the first billionaire space tycoon to launch to space.