SpaceX Launches its Last Dragon 1 Mission to the ISS

On Friday, March 6th, as part of the company’s 20th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-20) mission, SpaceX launched a Dragon 1 capsule destined for the International Space Station (ISS). The mission involved the transport of supplies, as well as materials related to the more than 250 science investigations taking place aboard the ISS. More than that, it represented a milestone for the aerospace manufacturer.

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Another Reminder that Spaceflight is Difficult. Starship Prototype Explodes and Falls Over

SpaceX’s Starship has been hitting some bumps making its way from the drawing board to space. As the spacecraft element of the Elon Musk’s proposed super-heavy launch system, the Starship will one day become the workhorse of SpaceX, replacing the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launchers. Unfortunately, another Starship prototype recently experienced a structural failure during pressure testing that caused it to explode.

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SpaceX is Thinking of Spinning Off Starlink and Taking it Public

In May of 2019, SpaceX launched the first batch of satellites that will make up its Starlink constellation, thus delivering on Musk’s promise to provide broadband internet access to the whole world. Since then, the company has conducted several launches of upgraded satellites with the intent of creating a constellation of 1,584 by 2024 and 2,200 by 2027.

According to the latest statements made by Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s President and Chief Operations Officer (COO), the company is considering spinning off Starlink and making it a publicly-traded company in the coming years. The announcement was made on Thursday, Feb. 6th, at a private investor event hosted by JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Miami.

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SpaceX Has Requested Permission to Fly Starship as Early as March

In September of 2019, SpaceX unveiled the first Starship prototype, the first of several test vehicles that would validate the design of the next-generation spacecraft that would fulfill Musk’s promise of making commercial flights to the Moon and Mars. And while there was a bit of a setback in November of 2019 after the Mk. 1 suffered a structural failure, Musk indicated that the company would be moving forward with other prototypes.

As Musk explained at the time, this would consist of the Mk. 3 prototype conducting an orbital test flight to an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) sometime in 2020. According to recent filings made with the FCC, this test could be happening as early as mid-March and will involve the vehicle launching from the company’s test facility in Boca Chica, Texas, and flying to an altitude of 20 km (12.6 mi) before landing.

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Stalking Starlink’s ‘DarkSat’

Starlink

Note: Updates in reflect changes in the new launch time for Starlink-3. We’ll add in updated sighting opportunities as they become available.

By now, you’ve no doubt heard of (or seen) Starlink. SpaceX’s mega-satellite constellation has become a permanent fixture in our skies as of late, with several routine passes on any given week. But have you seen the supposed ‘black sheep’ of the flock, DarkSat?

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Nails In-Flight Abort Test! Next Stop, the ISS!

At Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during the morning hours this past Sunday (Jan, 19th), SpaceX conducted the final uncrewed test of their Crew Dragon space capsule. This was the all-important in-flight abort test, the purpose of which was to validate the crew capsule’s escape capabilities in the event of an unexpected emergency during launch.

The event, which was live-streamed by NASA TV, was a complete success and saw the Crew Dragon successfully separate from its Falcon 9 launcher before being retrieved at sea. With this test complete, NASA and SpaceX will be moving forward with the first crewed mission. Known as Crew Demo-2, this mission will see two astronauts launched aboard the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

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Scientists Figure Out How to Continuously Watch the Entire Planet With Just 4 Satellites

For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out the minimum number of satellites that would be able to see every point on Earth. This question is motivated in part by the growing problem of space debris, but also by considerations of cost and efficiency. By the mid-1980s, researcher John E. Draim proposed a solution to this problem in a series of studies, claiming that a four-satellite constellation was all that was needed.

Unfortunately, his solution simply wasn’t practical at the time since a tremendous amount of propellant would be needed to keep the satellites in orbit. But thanks to a recent collaborative study, a team of researchers has found the right combination of factors to make a four-satellite constellation possible. Their findings could drive advances in telecommunication, navigation, and remote sensing while also reducing costs.

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Starship Mk 1 Blows its Top During Testing

SpaceX has been on a roll lately. With the completion of tethered and untethered flight tests with the Starship Hopper, SpaceX founder Elon Musk unveiled the newly-completed Starship Mk 1 prototype and announced that orbital test flights would commence in a few months. Meanwhile, the Starlink constellation got started with the launch of its first 60 satellites, followed by 60 more upgraded versions.

Unfortunately, there are always some speed bumps along the way. Yesterday, during a cryogenic loading test, the Starship Mk 1 experienced an explosion that sent its top bulkhead flying off and dispersing frozen vapor all over the launch area. However, SpaceX has indicated in an official statement that this setback was not unforeseen and won’t hamper the orbital flight test of the prototype for long.

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SpaceX Launches Another 60 Starlink Satellites

In May of 2019, Elon Musk began delivering on his promise to create a constellation of satellites (named Starlink) that would offer broadband internet access. It all started with the launch of the first sixty Starlink satellites and was followed by Musk sending the inaugural tweet using the service this past October. Earlier today, another batch of Starlink satellites was sent into space as part of a live-streamed launch event.

The mission, known as Starlink-1, saw the launch of another 60 satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Unlike previous launches, this mission involved the latest version of Starlink (Starlink 1.0), which feature a number of upgrades and refinements over the previous version (Starlink 0.9) and made this mission the heaviest Starlink launch to date.

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