Weekly Space Hangout -Oct 4, 2017: CosmoQuest’s Image Detective Citizen Science Project

Hosts:
Fraser Cain (universetoday.com / @fcain)
Dr. Paul M. Sutter (pmsutter.com / @PaulMattSutter)
Dr. Kimberly Cartier (KimberlyCartier.org / @AstroKimCartier )
Dr. Morgan Rehnberg (MorganRehnberg.com / @MorganRehnberg ChartYourWorld.org)

Special Guest:
Dr. Pamela Gay of CosmoQuest will be discussing and demonstrating the new citizen science project Image Detective, where people can help identify locations in space and on Earth in photos taken by astronauts on the ISS and spacecraft.

Announcements:

If you would like to join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew, visit their site here and sign up. They’re a great team who can help you join our online discussions!

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Secret X-37B Military Mini-Shuttle Set for SpaceX Blastoff/Landing Sept. 7 as Cat 5 Hurricane Irma Forces Florida State of Emergency – Watch Live

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rolls horizontally up incline at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on 6 Sept. 2017. The rocket is being processed for liftoff of the X-37B OTV-5 mini-shuttle mission scheduled for Sept. 7, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Although its far from sunny in the so called ‘Sunshine State’ the secret X-37B military mini-shuttle is set for a SpaceX blastoff and booster landing combo Thursday, Sept. 7 – even as the looming threat from Cat 5 Hurricane Irma forced Florida’s Governor to declare a statewide ‘State of Emergency.’

Launch preparations were in full swing today on Florida’s Space Coast for liftoff of the hi tech USAF X-37B reusable spaceplane- hoping to escape to orbit for the first time atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and just in the nick of time tomorrow, before the impending threat of monster storm Irma potentially lashes the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the center of the states long peninsula.

Hurricane Irma Cone forecast on Sept 7, 2017 from the National Hurricane Center. Credit: NHC

Irma is packing winds of 185 mph and one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever. It is being closely tracked in incredibly high resolution by the new NASA/NOAA GOES-16 (GOES-R) satellite launched late last year on a ULA Atlas V in Nov 2016.

I witnessed the entire SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and payload stack being rolled horizontally up the incline to the top of Launch Complex 39A late this afternoon, Sept. 6, during our media visit for up-close camera setup.

Up close head on view of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rolling horizontally up incline at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on 6 Sept. 2017. The rocket is being processed for liftoff of the X-37B OTV-5 mini-shuttle mission scheduled for Sept. 7, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Rather remarkably the relatively dismal weather forecast has brightened considerably in the final hours leading to Thursday’s scheduled launch and the forecast heavy rain showers and thunder have dissipated in the time remaining between now and liftoff.

The X-37B reusable mini-shuttle is a secretive technology testing spaceplane flying on its fifth mission overall.

Up close side view of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and nose cone housing the X-37B OTV-5 spaceplane slated for liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 7, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The path to launch was cleared following the successful engine test firing of the Falcon 9 first stage I witnessed late last week, Thursday afternoon, Aug. 30.

During the hold down static fire test all nine Merlin 9 stage engine were ignited and fired up to full throttle for several seconds. See my static fire story here.

SpaceX conducts successful static fire test of the Falcon 9 first stage rocket at 4:30 p.m. EDT on Aug. 31, 2017 on Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fl., as seen from nearby Playalinda causeway. Liftoff of the USAF X-37B OTV-5 mini-shuttle mission is scheduled for Sept. 7, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Although the exact launch time remains a closely guarded U.S. Air Force secret, liftoff of the X-37B is slated to occur sometime during a 5 hour long window.

The launch window for the X-37B on the OTV-5 mission opens at 9:50 a.m. EDT (13:50 UTC) and spans until 2:55 p.m. EDT (18:55 UTC) Sept. 7 from seaside Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX will offer their own live webcast beginning approximately 15 minutes before launch starting at about 9:35 a.m. EDT.

You can watch the launch live at NASA TV at the SpaceX hosted Webcast at – spacex.com/webcast

In the event of delay for any reason, the next launch opportunity is Friday, Sept 8 at approximately the same time and window.

However amidst the heavy duty Hurricane Irma preparations all around, nothing is certain. Local area schools in Brevard County have closed and local residents are preparing their homes and apartments to hunker down, buying food and essentials putting up storm shutters, topping off gas and energy supplies and more.

“If for any reason we cannot launch tomorrow we will reevaluate whether or not we can still support another attempt on Friday, said Wayne R. Monteith, Brig Gen, USAF, Commander, 45th Space Wing.

The weather forecast overall is about 50% chance of favorable conditions at launch time according to U.S. Air Force meteorologists with the 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base. But the opportunity varies within the long window and the exact launch time is currently classified.

“Hurricane Irma is forecast to be approximately 900 miles southeast of the Spaceport during Thursday’s launch attempt, so while Irma certainly bears watching, the stalled boundary will be the main factor in Thursday’s weather,” noted the 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron.

The primary concerns on Sept. 7 are for cumulus clouds and for thick clouds in the flight path.

The odds drop to 40% favorable for the 24 hour scrub turnaround day on Friday, Sept 8

The USAF X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is set for blastoff on Sept. 7, 2017, onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo: Boeing/USAF

Everything is currently on track for Thursday’s launch of the 230 foot tall SpaceX Falcon 9 on the X-37B OTV-5 mission.

“The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office is undergoing final launch preparations for the fifth mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle [OTV],” the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs announced. “The OTV is scheduled to launch on Sept. 7, 2017, onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rolls horizontally up incline at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on 6 Sept. 2017 ahead of liftoff of the X-37B OTV-5 spaceplane mission on Sept. 7, 2017. Credit: Julian Leek

The X-37B will be launched for the fifth time on the OTV-5 mission atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 on Sept. 7 from Launch Complex 39A on the Kennedy Space Center Florida into low Earth orbit.

The Boeing-built X-37B is processed for flight at KSC using refurbished NASA space shuttle processing facilities now dedicated to the reusable mini-shuttle, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV). It launches vertically like a satellite but lands horizontally like an airplane and functions as a reliable and reusable space test platform for the U.S. Air Force.

The OTV-5 mission marks the first launch of an X-37B spaceplane by SpaceX.

All four prior OTV missions launched on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V and ended with runway landings in either California or Florida.

“The many firsts on this mission make the upcoming OTV launch a milestone for the program,” said Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

“It is our goal to continue advancing the X-37B OTV so it can more fully support the growing space community.”

Ground landing of SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage at Landing Zone-1 (LZ-1) after SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida from pad 39A at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

SpaceX will also attempt another land landing of the 156-foot-tall Falcon 9 first stage back at Landing Zone-1 (LZ-1) at the Cape.

The Falcon 9 first stage is equipped with a quartet of landing legs and grid fins to enable the rocket recycling plan.

Up close view of SpaceX Falcon 9 landing legs for the X-37B OTV-5 spaceplane slated for liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 7, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

This marks the 7th time SpaceX attempts a ground landing at the Cape.

The booster will touch down about 8 minutes after launch and generate multiple sonic booms screaming loudly across the surrounding region and beyond.

“The fifth OTV mission will also be launched into, and landed from, a higher inclination orbit than prior missions to further expand the X-37B’s orbital envelope.”

The daylight first stage precision guided landing should offer spectators a thrilling up close view of the rocket reusability technology envisioned by SpaceX’s billionaire CEO Elon Musk to drastically slash the high costs of launching to space.

Technicians work on the Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4, which landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida May 7, 2017. Credit: Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.

The 11,000 pound (4990 kg) state-of -the art reusable OTV space plane is about a quarter the size of a NASA space shuttle. The vehicle measures 29 ft 3 in (8.9 m) in length with a wingspan of 14 ft 11 in (4.5 m).

The X-37B was originally developed by NASA but was transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 2004.

Since then most but not all of the spaceplane’s goals have been shrouded in secrecy.

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite X-37B OTV-5 and NASA mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

SpaceX Falcon 9 Dazzles Delivering ‘Epic’ Intelsat DTH TV Comsat to Orbit for America’s

SpaceX Falcon 9 blasts off with Intelsat 35e – 4th next gen ‘Epic’ comsat for Intelsat – on July 5, 2017 at 7:37 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The third time proved to be the charm as SpaceX kept up a torrid 2017 launch pace and successfully ignited another Falcon 9 rocket late Wednesday, July 5, from the Florida Space Coast and delivered a powerful and heavy weight commercial TV satellite to orbit that will serve “tens of millions of customers globally,” Intelsat VP for Sales Kurt Riegel, told Universe Today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center press site.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 put on a dazzling near dusk display as it roared off historic launch pad 39A on SpaceX’s tenth launch of 2017 Wednesday evening into brilliant blue skies with scarcely a cloud to be seen and delightfully summer weather conditions.

Blastoff of the Falcon 9 carrying the Intelsat 35e communications satellite for commercial high speed broadband provider Intelsat occurred right on time at dinnertime July 5 at 7:38 p.m. EDT, or 2338 UTC from SpaceX’s seaside Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The thunderous blastoff wowed hordes of spectators gathered along space coast beaches and causeways and local residential neighborhoods from came across the globe to witness and the launch spectacle and many of whom will be users of and benefit from the services offered by Intelsat 35e.

“Tens of millions of customers will be served and be touched by Intelsat 35e,” Intelsat VP for Sales & Marketing Kurt Riegel, told Universe Today in an exclusive interview beside the iconic countdown clock at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Florida press site.

Launch of expendable SpaceX Falcon 9 with 4th next gen ‘Epic’ DTH comsat for Intelsat at 7:37 p.m. EDT on July 5, 2017 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – as seen from the countdown clock. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Wednesday’s liftoff finally took place safely after back to back last moment scrubs on Sunday and Monday (July 2/3) kept Falcon 9 from igniting its engine for the delayed journey to orbit.

Elon Musk told the SpaceX launch and engineering team to stand down over the 4th of July holiday and instead thoroughly investigate the root cause of the pait of launch aborts.

The near scrubs resulted from insidious anomaly not detected after the initial launch abort on Sunday, July 2.

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of with ‘Epic’ comsat for Intelsat at 7:38 p.m. EDT on July 5, 2017 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Julian Leek

Intelsat 35e will be utilized by copious public, government and commercial clients throughout the Americas, Europe and Africa.

The 23 story tall Falcon 9 lofted Intelsat’s commercial Epic 35e next-generation high throughput satellite to geostationary transfer orbit.

It separated from the Falcon 9 upper stage as planned about a half hour after liftoff.

“The Intelsat 35e satellite separated from the rocket’s upper stage 32 minutes after launch, at 8:10 pm EDT, and signal acquisition has been confirmed,” Intelsat announced post launch..

“This was the SpaceX’s first satellite launch contracted by Intelsat,” Ken Lee, Intelsat’s senior vice president of space systems, told Universe Today in a prelaunch interview on Sunday.

“Intelsat 35e is the fourth in the series of our ‘Epic’ satellites. It will provide the most advanced digital services ever and a global footprint.”

SpaceX Falcon 9 blasts off with Intelsat 35e – 4th next gen ‘Epic’ TV and mobile broadband comsat for Intelsat – on July 5, 2017 at 7:38 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

SpaceX has now safely and successfully demonstrated an amazing launch pace with 3 rockets propelled aloft in the span of just 12 days from both US coasts. Had Intelsat 35e been launched on Sunday, July 3, it would have established and even faster record pace of 3 launches in just 9 days.

“The successful launch of Intelsat 35e is a major milestone in our business plan for 2017, furthering the footprint and resilience of our Intelsat EpicNG infrastructure,” said Stephen Spengler, Chief Executive Officer, Intelsat, in a statement.

“With each Intelsat EpicNG launch, we advance our vision of creating a global, high performance for our customers that will unlock new growth opportunities in applications including mobility, wireless infrastructure and private data networks. As we further our innovations with respect to ground infrastructure and managed service offerings, like IntelsatOne Flex, we are transforming the role of satellite in the telecommunications landscape.”

Launch of expendable SpaceX Falcon 9 with 4th next gen ‘Epic’ DTH comsat for Intelsat at 7:38 p.m. EDT on July 5, 2017 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – as seen from the KSC press site. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The geostationary comsat will provide high performance services in the C- And Ku-bands to customers in North and South America, the Caribbean, as well as the continents of Europe and Africa.

The Ku band service includes a customized high power beam for direct-to-home television (DTH) and data communications services in the Caribbean as well as mobility services in Europe and Africa

The first stage was not recovered for this launch because the massive 6800 kg (13000 lb) Intelsat 35e comsat requires every drop of fuel to get to the desired orbit.

Intelsat 35e marks the tenth SpaceX launch of 2017 – establishing a new single year launch record for SpaceX.

The recent BulgariaSat-1 and Iridium-2 missions counted as the eighth and ninth SpaceX launches of 2017.

Including those last two ocean platform landings, SpaceX has now successfully recovered 13 boosters; 5 by land and 8 by sea, over the past 18 months.

Expendable SpaceX Falcon 9 is seen rising to launch position in this up close view of payload fairing encapsulating Intelsat 35e comsat and is now erected to launch position and poised for liftoff on July 5, 2017 at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Watch for Ken’s onsite Intelsat 35e and space mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Intelsat reps Kurt Riegel, Sr VP Intelsat Sales (c), and Diane VanBeber, VP Intelsat investor relations (l), speak to Ken Kremer/Universe Today (r) about Intelsat35e launch on SpaceX Falcon 9 beside the countdown clock at the Kennedy Space Center Press Site in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Never used SpaceX Falcon 9 is seen rising to launch position and now stands erect and poised for liftoff Intelsat 35e on July 3, 2017 at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Artists concept of Intelsat 35e in geostationary Earth orbit. Credit: Intelsat
SpaceX Falcon 9 is poised for liftoff with Intelsat 35e – 4th next gen ‘Epic’ comsat on July 5, 2017 at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

SpaceX Accomplishes American ‘Science Triumph’ with ‘Mind Blowing’ Historic 2nd Launch and Landing of Used Rocket

The ‘used’ SpaceX Falcon 9 launches the SES-10 telecomsat to orbit from historic Launch Complex 39A as it zooms past US Flag by the countdown clock at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:27 p.m. EDT on March 30, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – SpaceX accomplished an American ‘Science Triumph’ with today’s “Mind Blowing” and history making second launch and landing of a previously flown Falcon 9 booster that successfully delivered a massive and powerful Hi Def TV satellite to orbit for telecom giant SES from the Kennedy Space Center. Note: Breaking News story being updated.

The milestone SpaceX mission to refly the first ever ‘used rocket’ blasted off right on time at dinnertime today, Thursday, March 30, at 6:27 p.m. EDT. It carried the SES-10 telecommunications payload to orbit atop a ‘Flight-Proven’ Falcon 9 rocket from seaside Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The recycled Falcon delivered the nearly six ton SES-10 satellite to geostationary transfer orbit where it will provide significantly improved TV, voice, data and maratime service to over 37 million customers across Central and South America.

The daring mission to relaunch a used booster dubbed ‘Flight-Proven’ seems like its straight out of a science fiction thriller.

Yet today’s stellar results fully vindicates billionaire SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk’s bold vision to slash launch costs by recovering and reusing spent first stage rockets from his firms Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

“My mind is blown,” Musk said in post launch remarks at the KSC press site. “This is one of the coolest things ever.”

“We just had an incredible day today – the first re-flight of an orbital-class booster.”

“It did its mission perfectly, dropped off the second stage, came back and landed on the drone ship, right on the bullseye. It’s an amazing day, I think, for space as a whole, for the space industry.”

Recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 skyrockets to orbit with SES-10 telecomsat from historic Launch Complex 39A as it zooms past US Flag by the countdown clock at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:27 p.m. EDT on March 30, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

For the first time in world history a recovered and ‘Flight-Proven’ rocket has actually launched on a second mission and not only roared aloft but survived intact all the way to its intended orbit and delivered a second satellite to orbit for a paying customer- in this case the commercial TV broadcast satellite provider SES- one of the world’s largest.

“This will rock the space industry,” said SES CTO Martin Halliwell at the post launch media briefing. “And SpaceX already has!”

“We are confident in this booster,” Halliwell told me at a prelaunch press briefing on March 28.

“There is not a huge risk,” Halliwell stated emphatically. “In this particular case we know that the reusability capability is built into the design of the Falcon 9 vehicle.”

Reflown SpaceX Falcon 9 soars to orbit with SES-10 telecomsat from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:27 p.m. EDT on March 30, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

This recycled Falcon 9 first stage booster had initially launched in April 2016 for NASA on the SpaceX Dragon CRS-8 resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under contract for the space agency.

Furthermore, after the 156 foot tall first stage booster completed its primary mission task, SpaceX engineers successfully guided it to a second landing on the tiny OCISLY drone ship for a soft touchdown some eight and a half minutes after liftoff.

OCISLY had left Port Canaveral several days ahead of the March 30 launch and was prepositioned in the Atlantic Ocean some 400 miles (600 km) off the US East coast, just waiting for the boosters 2nd history making approach and pinpoint propulsive soft landing.

It thus became the first booster in history to launch twice and land twice.

SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk and SES CTO Martin Halliwell exuberantly shake hands of congratulation following the successful delivery of SES-10 TV comsat to orbit using the first reflown and flight proven booster in world history at the March 30, 2017 post launch media briefing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

And this magnificent achievement was accomplished through the dedication and hard work of engineers and scientists who benefited from the American education system that cultivated and nurtured their talents – like generations before them – and that we as a country must continue to support and fortify with reliable and ample research and development (R&D) and educational funding – now and in the future – if we wish to remain leaders in science and space.

The entire Falcon 9/SES-10 launch and landing was broadcast live on the SpaceX hosted webcast.

SpaceX Falcon 9 recycled rocket carrying SES-10 telecomsat raised erect atop Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center as seen from inside the pad ahead of liftoff slated for 6:27 p.m on 30 Mar 2017 on world’s first reflight of an orbit class rocket. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

Watch for Ken’s continuing coverage direct from onsite at the Kennedy Space Center press site and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about SpaceX SES-10, EchoStar 23 and CRS-10 launches to ISS, ULA SBIRS GEO 3 launch, GOES-R launch, Heroes and Legends at KSCVC, OSIRIS-REx, InSight Mars lander, Juno at Jupiter, SpaceX AMOS-6, ISS, ULA Atlas and Delta rockets, Orbital ATK Cygnus, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events at Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL:

Mar 31, Apr 1: “SpaceX SES-10, EchoStar 23, CRS-10 launch to ISS, ULA Atlas SBIRS GEO 3 launch, GOES-R weather satellite launch, OSIRIS-Rex, SpaceX and Orbital ATK missions to the ISS, Juno at Jupiter, ULA Delta 4 Heavy spy satellite, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

SpaceX Falcon 9 recycled rocket carrying SES-10 telecomsat poised atop Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center ahead of liftoff slated for 6:27 p.m. on 30 Mar 2017 on world’s first reflight of an orbit class rocket. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

The SES-10 satellite was manufactured by Airbus Defence & Space and is based on the Eurostar E3000 platform. It will operate in geostationary orbit.Credit: SES/Airbus
SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from Thaicom-8 launch on May 27, 2016 arrives at mouth of Port Canaveral, FL on June 2, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com