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7JetSet7 Code: SPX
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Web: spacex.com
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SPX-2015-07 - Dragon cargo capsule docking.jpg
SPX-2015-11 - Astronaut Hiring.jpg
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SpaceX Vision - - "Mission to Mars."

September 2014: (NASA) (NAS) agreed to pay Boeing (TBC) $4.2 billion and SpaceX (SPX) $2.6 billion to certify, test and fly their space capsules. The 2 contracts call for at least 2 and as many as 6 missions for a crew of 4 as well as supplies and scientific experiments, said (NASA)'s Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program Manager. The space "taxis" will double as emergency lifeboats at the orbiting outpost.

The hope is that the commercial approach will spur a space-travel industry far larger than just (NASA). Boeing (TBC) for example, has announced a partnership to fly space tourists to the space station.

A cargo version of the spaceship being developed by privately owned Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) (SPX) is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the company’s second launch in 13 days. Quick turnarounds between flights are expected to become routine as SpaceX (SPX), as the California-based company is known, adds ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) to its fast-growing launch business.

“We are ramping up for that launch rate, and actually even more than that,” said Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX (SPX), VP Mission Assurance. “In the future, I anticipate that this will be the norm.”

SpaceX (SPX) won a $2.6 billion contract to design and fly Dragon passenger ships, with a test flight targeted for 2016. (NASA) (NAS) also awarded Boeing (TBC) a $4.2 billion contract to develop a second space taxi.

The price difference is primarily the cost of the launcher. SpaceX (SPX)’s Falcon 9 rockets sell for about $61 million; Boeing (TBC) plans to buy Atlas 5 rockets, which cost about $150 million.

United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing (TBC) and Lockheed Martin, manufactures and sells Atlas 5, which predominantly are used for USA military missions.

SpaceX (SPX), owned and operated by technology entrepreneur, Elon Musk, is gunning for that business as well. A lawsuit is pending in federal court contesting the US Air Force (USF)’s latest non-competed award to United Launch Alliance.

SpaceX (SPX) already flies cargo to the space station for (NASA) under a $1.6 billion contract and has a backlog of more than >35 commercial satellite and (NASA) station resupply missions.

Its fourth cargo run to the station is scheduled for launch at 2:15 am (0615 GMT). In addition to food, clothes and science gear for the station’s crew, the Dragon freighter carries an experimental 3-D printer, a science instrument to monitor winds over Earth’s oceans and 20 mice to be used in experiments. SEE ATTACHED - - "NAS-SPACEX LAUNCH - 2014-09" AND "NAS-2014-09 - SPACEX SUPPLIES."

Russia’s manned Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft has successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) after reports said it had failed to unfold one of the two stowed solar arrays, a spokesman of the Roscosmos Space Agency said.

A female Russian cosmonaut, Yelena Serova, was launched into Earth orbit overnight aboard Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft, ending spaceflight’s 17-year male “hegemony” - - SEE ATTACHED - - "NAS-2014-09 - FEMALE RUSSIAN COSMONAUT."

The crew also includes another Russian cosmonaut, Alexander Samokutyayev, and (NASA) (NAS) astronaut, Barry Wilmore.

Soyuz TMA-14M’s flight to the International Space Station (ISS) atop the Soyuz-FG orbital carrier rocket has been the 123rd since 1967. The Soyuz is expected to remain on board the station as an emergency escape vehicle.

The rocket blasted off from a launching pad at the Gagarin Start launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Yelena Serova is the fourth female cosmonaut from Russia to ever fly in space, the first being (USSR)’s Valentina Tereshkova, who made history in 1963 as the first woman ever to go into space on a sole flight. Tereshkova was followed by Svetlana Savitskaya, who circled the Earth orbit twice in 1982 and 1984. Yelena Kondakova was the third to be put into orbit in 1994 and 1997.

A total of 57 women have flown to space so far. Four of them (USA astronauts Judith Resnik, Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Kalpana Chawla and Christa McAuliffe) died during their missions, when the space shuttles they were manning, exploded in midair.

China has launched a new experimental satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the bnorthwestern Gobi desert on Sunday, September 28th, state-run "Xinhua" news agency reported.

The Shijian-11-07 was boosted by the Long March 2C launch vehicle at 05:13 (UTC). This is the seventh in a series of satellites that (according to Chinese media) known as “experimental satellites.”

They are developed by China Spacesat Company under the China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation. The Shijian series of satellites has been used for scientific research and experiments in space. The first Shijian-11 satellite was launched on November 12, 2009.

This launch was the 194th successful Chinese orbital launch and 193th launch of the Long March rocket series.


News Item A-1: January 21 news: "SpaceX, OneWeb Unveil Rival Broadband Constellation Plans" by Amy Svitak, "Aviation Week & Space Technology" Publication.

In the span of one week, two space start-ups that have made good on far-fetched promises, unveiled plans to develop competing global satellite Internet systems. Whether there is room for two such multibillion-dollar constellations is unclear, but the announcements by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) (SPX) Founder, Elon Musk and OneWeb Ltd (a company financed by the Virgin Group (VAA), chip-maker Qualcomm, and (O3b) Networks Founder, Greg Wyler) are backed by people who have demonstrated the ability to attract both capital and engineering talent.

On the one hand is Musk, who announced plans earlier this month to build a spacecraft production plant in Seattle, an effort to transform satellite manufacturing in much the same way he has done for the space-launch business. Less than a week later, SpaceX (SPX) announced a $1-billion round of financing with two new investors, Google and Fidelity, which will collectively own just under <10% of the company.

In a January 20 statement, SpaceX (SPX) said the money would pay for continued innovation in space transport, reusability, and satellite manufacturing. “In order for us to really revolutionize space, we have to address both satellites and rockets,” Musk said on January 16 during a Seattle event, where he unveiled his plans. “We’re going to start by building our own constellation of satellites, but that same satellite business and the technology we develop, can also be used for Earth science and space science, as well as other potential applications that others may have.”

Musk said the satellite plant would start small (about 60 people) and that engineers could move between SpaceX (SPX)’s core business of rocket manufacturing in Hawthorne, California, and the new satellite venture in Seattle. He said the project would take 12 to 15 years to complete and cost $10 to 15 billion to build.

He also said the new company would not be drawing from the Puget Sound’s established space propulsion community to supply the vehicles.
“We’re going to build our own propulsion unit,” he said, adding that the constellation of 4,000 broadband satellites, weighing a few hundred kilograms each and orbiting at 1,100-km/683-mi altitude will be powered using all-electric Hall- effect thrusters, a technology, he says is relatively easy.

In the meantime, OneWeb, formerly WorldVu Satellites based in Britain’s Channel Islands, has announced plans for a start-up satellite broadband venture. Unveiled January 15, the new company is to be led by Wyler, who founded (O3b) Networks, a constellation of 12 Ka-band broadband satellites, that provides Internet trunking to telecom companies, plus corporate and government customers globally in a band around the equator.

Wyler, who is no longer directly affiliated with (O3b) operations, has said the amount of overlap between OneWeb and (O3b) is minimal, given the latter’s focus on large telecom companies. He says the OneWeb satellite system would introduce the first-ever telecom-class micro satellites with a fleet of 648 spacecraft providing low-latency, high-speed Internet access to small-user terminals deployed around the world.

OneWeb plans to work with local operator partners to provide this access, though it is unclear what kind of terminals will be used, or how much they will cost.

Wyler also said OneWeb’s first satellite launch vehicle would be Virgin Galactic (VGC)’s LauncherOne.

Both announcements prompted comparisons with past Internet satellite ventures that flopped, notably Teledesic and Skybridge, two well-financed startups with plans for global constellations of low-orbiting satellites that could deliver high-speed Internet to corporate and individual customers. Both companies spent substantial resources to obtain regulatory licensing with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which coordinates orbital frequencies in an effort to avoid radio interference among spacecraft. But neither constellation was ever developed, owing largely to technical issues.

Despite such comparisons, some industry observers are optimistic that these technical setbacks could be overcome today.

“Ten or 15 years ago, we had similar business models appear, all of which collapsed,” says Francois Auque, head of the space division at Airbus Defense & Space here. “But today, we appear to be in a new phase, with more technical and financial capabilities being brought to bear on these new projects.”

Still, Musk’s presentation, which was posted on youtube.com, left a number of technical questions unanswered.

For example, while OneWeb already has Ku-band slots filed with the (ITU) that Wyler obtained through WorldVu, it is unclear whether Musk will have access to frequency slots in low Earth orbit.

“There’s the (ITU) filings, and we’ve done the filings associated with that,” Musk said during his talk. He was also vague regarding the ground system for his constellation, and whether he could make high-throughput ground terminals for low-Earth-orbiting satellites affordable for individuals.

“The user terminals will be at least $100 to $300, depending on which type of terminal,” he said, without explaining the challenge of developing antennas designed to track multiple satellites passing overhead.

Musk has long said his ultimate goal is to establish a permanent colony on Mars, and that his satellite venture could support this in multiple ways. First, he said, because satellites provide a better means to generate revenue than launchers, but also because Mars will need communications, too.

“A lot of what we do in developing an Earth-based communication system could be leveraged for Mars as well, crazy as that may sound,” Musk said.

News Item A-2: (NASA) (NAS) expects to save millions of dollars in launch costs, once its commercial crew program starts flying in a couple of years.

SpaceX (SPX) and Boeing (TBC) said that they are on track to carry out their first manned test flights to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2017. (NASA) chose the two companies last September to transport American astronauts to and from the orbiting lab.

(NASA)’s Commercial Crew Program Manager, Kathy Lueders, said the average price for a seat aboard the SpaceX (SPX) Dragon and Boeing (TBC) CST-100 capsules will be $58 million. That compares with $71 million a seat charged by Russia under its latest (NASA) (NAS) contract.

(NASA) Administrator, Charles Bolden told astronauts gathered at Johnson Space Center in Houston that he’s tired of writing checks to the Russian space agency.

February 2015: News Item A-1: SpaceX (SPX) is taking another stab at launching an observatory into deep space and landing the booster that carries it up.

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket was set to blast off at sunset, with the ground-breaking ocean landing of the leftover booster planned for about 10 minutes later.

It was the private company’s second attempt in three days to launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory for (NASA), the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration & Air Force.

Last-minute radar trouble halted Sunday’s countdown, then SpaceX (SPX) skipped Monday because of rain. Tuesday’s forecast called for an 80% chance of good flying weather.

Former VP, Al Gore planned to return for the launch. It was his idea in 1998 to provide continuous views of Earth from afar that led to this space weather satellite.

The observatory, dubbed DSCOVR, will fly to a point 1 million miles from Earth in direct line with the sun to watch for incoming geomagnetic storms that could trigger power outages on Earth. This so-called Lagrange point would provide as much as a one-hour lead time, to prepare for potentially disruptive solar outbursts.

In addition, DSCOVR will provide a steady stream of pictures of the entire sunlit side of Earth, as Gore originally envisioned.

Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat-Florida, said from Washington that there hasn’t been a full, sunlit picture of the Earth since Apollo 17 in 1972 ((NASA)’s last manned moon-landing mission. Subsequent images have been stitched together, he noted, for composite shots.

DSCOVR “will give us a new perspective of the overview effect of what this home is that we call Planet Earth, and what it looks like on a daily basis, every two hours,” Nelson said Monday from the Capitol. The senator accompanied Gore for Sunday’s try, but could not return.

The $340 million DSCOVR mission began as Gore’s "Triana," named after the lookout who first spotted land on Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the New World. It was canceled for political reasons, however, and the spacecraft put in storage in 2001. (NASA) and (NOAA) resurrected it several years later and made the sun its primary mission, with Earth-gazing a secondary objective.

It will take DSCOVR nearly four months to travel the 1 million miles, and another month for checkout. That would put operations beginning in mid-summer.

In a repeat of a ground-breaking experiment, SpaceX (SPX) will fly its leftover first-stage booster to a platform floating 370 miles off the Florida coast. Last month’s test came close, but ultimately failed; the booster ran out of hydraulic fluid for the guidance fins, landed hard and tumbled into the Atlantic in flames.

SpaceX added extra hydraulic fluid for this second test, intended to demonstrate money-saving rocket reusability. But company officials warned the booster would be coming in faster this time, making it harder to nail the vertical touchdown. The odds of success remained no better than 50 - 50, officials said.

Musk intends to land boosters back on firm soil, once the operation is perfected. On Tuesday, officials at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station announced that SpaceX (SPX) will lease an inactive launch complex once used to shoot off Atlas missiles, and convert it into its first-ever booster-landing pad.

“It’s a whole new world,” Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, Commander of the 45th Space Wing, said.

The first booster-landing attempt on January 10 occurred during a SpaceX (SPX) supply run to the International Space Station (ISS). Dragon, the unmanned cargo ship, coincidentally was scheduled to return home Tuesday.

The company, led by billionaire Elon Musk was all set to guide the Dragon capsule to a Pacific splashdown off the Southern California coast.

Loaded with science samples, bad spacesuit parts and other broken equipment, the Dragon departed the space station four hours before the Falcon’s planned liftoff. Splashdown was set to occur 1½ hours after the planned launch. See attached news article "SPX-2015-02 - LAUNCH FOR LANDING."

News Item A-2: SpaceX (SPX) launched an observatory, nicknamed "Dscovr" toward a solar-storm lookout point a million miles away on February 11th (see attached - - "SPX-2015-02 - FALCON 9 LAUNCH"). The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket blasted off on the 3rd try in 4 days, successfully hoisting the spacecraft for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration & Air Force (NASA) - (NAS). Besides watching for solar outbursts, the observatory will will provide continuous pictures of the full, unlit side of our Earth planet. Although the launch was smooth, rough seas forced SpaceX (SPX) to cancel its effort to land the leftover booster on an ocean platform floating 370 miles off the Florida coast (in the "Bermuda triangle?").

News Item A-3: Spacewalking (NASA) astronauts Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Terry Virts initiated the installation of the first of two planned International Space Station docking ports for future USA commercial crew transportation vehicles by extending external power, data and thermal control cabling along the orbiting science lab's Harmony and Destiny laboratory modules.

The near seven hour excursion unfolded without difficulties from either of the fan pump separators in the two space suits, a safety concern that emerged in December and January and persisted up to the start of Saturday's spacewalk. Virts experienced a slight buildup of carbon dioxide in his suit from all of the exertion.

The two men started 30 minutes late but surged ahead of schedule, accomplishing some of the work assigned to the second in a series of three excursions over the next nine days.

The fan pump separators are part of the space suit life support system that circulates air and cooling water. The devices originally assigned to this excursion failed to spin up during late 2014/early 2015 checkouts inside the station's airlock.

The steady performance of the fan pump separators was a welcome development.

(NASA) plans a second and third spacewalk by the two men on February 25th and March 1 to complete the power, data and thermal control cable task. They also intend two antenna installations and communications cable extensions before Wilmore's scheduled return to Earth. He departs late March 11 with two Russian cosmonauts to conclude 167 days aboard the orbiting science lab.

The primary work site for Saturday's outing was the 16-year-old Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 on the forward end of Harmony, which served as the docking port for (NASA)'s space shuttle fleet until the winged orbiters were retired in mid-2011. Wilmore, the station's current commander, and Virts made five power, data and thermal control connections under two orbital debris shields on either side of PMA-2 and three additional cable connections, including two linkups that were originally scheduled for the second spacewalk.

"I worked up a lather on that one," quipped Wilmore as he marched through the first set of PMA-2 cable connections. "You guys have done just a superb job,” Mission Control told the two men as they entered the home stretch of their activities.

In all, Wilmore and Virts are to install 10 cables totaling 364 feet over the first two spacewalks to prepare PMA-2 for outfitting with the first of new (NASA) and Boeing developed International Docking Adapters. The (IDA)s will serve as the actual mechanical links between the station and future commercial crew vehicles operated by Boeing (tbc) and SpaceX (spx) under (NASA) contracts.

This spacewalk drew to a close at 2:26 pm, EST.

(NASA)'s goal is to achieve the first commercial crew vehicle docking with astronauts by the end of 2017.

SpaceX (SPX) is to deliver the first of the (IDA)s aboard the company's 7th commercial re-supply mission in June. The initial (IDA) would be installed on PMA-2 during a (NASA) spacewalk currently planned for July.

This year, (NASA) also plans to move the identical PMA-3 from the station's Tranquility module to the space facing circumference of Harmony. A second (IDA) is manifested for delivery aboard another SpaceX (SPX) resupply mission planned for late this year.

During this latest spacewalk, Wilmore and Virts are to complete the PMA-2 cabling and lubricate the grappling mechanism on the station's Canadian-furnished robot arm. The 58-foot-long mechanical limb will be used to relocate PMA-3, as well as move the station's Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module from the Earth facing side of the station's Unity module to the forward end of Tranquility. That move will ensure sufficient clearances for a pair of commercial cargo berthing ports as well as the two commercial crew parking spots.

During the March 1 spacewalk, Wilmore and Virts are to install two communications antennas and string another 400 feet of cabling along the station's port and starboard solar power trusses to support the transmission of navigational data for automated commercial crew rendezvous and dockings.

The source of the balky space suit fan pump separator issue that surfaced in December and January was traced to a corrosion buildup on internal bearings. The corrosion was blamed on water intrusion. Those initial suspicions were confirmed after the two fan pump separators that failed to activate were removed from the space suits and returned to Earth earlier this month aboard the fifth SpaceX (SPX) Dragon resupply mission. The devices were turned over to United Technologies Corporation, the space suit contractor, for evaluation.

The fan pump separators have been activated between spacewalks at an accelerated pace during check outs of cooling system water quality, which has increased the opportunity for exposure of the bearings to water, according to (NASA).

The unwanted presence of silica particles in the cooling water was blamed for a July 2013 incident in which water flowed into the space suit helmet worn by European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano retreated to the airlock as water invaded an airflow vent, massing around his eyes, nose and ears. Engineers found small water ports in the pump blocked by silica particles that migrated from water filters. The blockage diverted cooling water into the helmet air flow vent.

The USA chaired (ISS) mission management team cleared this latest spacewalk after determining any corrosion in the fan pump separators in suits worn by Wilmore and Virts was minimal.

However, (NASA)'s Mission Control refined the governing rules for the excursion by stipulating that work would be halted without further troubleshooting if there were signs of problems with the air and water circulation devices.

In the meantime, (NASA) has also changed its space suit cooling water quality checkouts to include additional air flow over the bearings as a dry out measure.


The following is a statement from (NASA) Administrator, Charles Bolden on the passing of Leonard Nimoy:

"Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers. As Mr Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most.

"(NASA) was fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague. He was much more than the Science Officer for the (USS) Enterprise. Leonard was a talented actor, director, philanthropist, and a gracious man dedicated to art in many forms.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and the legions of Star Trek fans around the world."

April 2015: News Item A-1: Elon Musk's SpaceX (SPX) and the US Airforce (USF) suffered from a "stark disconnect in perceptions" over (SPX)'s efforts to to win approval to compete for military satellite launches, according to an independent review commissioned by the (USF) Secretary, Deborah James after the service failed to meet a December goal to certify (SPX) for satellite launches. Launches are now handled exclusively by a Boeing (TBC)-Lockheed Martin joint venture (JV). While (SPX) and the (USF) have become conciliatory and say they expect (SPX) to be certified for launches by June, the report lays out a cultural collision between Musk's entrepreneurial impatience and the (USF)'s methodical bureaucracy.

News Item A-2: SpaceX (SPX) President, Gwynne Shotwell talked about the upgraded version of the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket that is expected to debut this summer, complete with fully optimized Merlin 1D engines. In a luncheon talk at the Satellite 2015 show in Washington, March 17, Shotwell detailed how the modifications will fit into the design of the Falcon Heavy launcher the company hopes will see its first flight later this year:

"In order to launch and get operational with the current Falcon 9 that we're flying, the v1.1, we needed to draw a line on engine development. But what we did see during the development of our Merlin engines was that there was more performance to go get, but we fundamentally ran out of time. We needed to get this vehicle to the pad and fly and make our customer commitments. So what we've done is we've gone back, got that extra performance from those engines, and we're going to place them on the new vehicle, the new spin. I don't know what we're going to call it. "Enhanced Falcon 9," "Falcon 9 v1.2," or "Full-Performance Falcon 9?"

"So, we got the higher thrust engines, finished development on that, we're in qual. What we're also doing is modifying the structure a little bit. I want to be building only two versions, or two cores in my factory, any more than that would not be great from a customer perspective. So Falcon Heavy is two different cores, the inner core and then the two side boosters, and the new single stick Falcon 9 will basically be a Falcon Heavy side booster. So, we're building two types of cores and that's to make sure we don't have a bunch of different configurations of the vehicle around the factory. I think it will streamline operations and really allow us to hit a cadence of one or two a month at every launch site we have.

"It's about a +30% increase in performance, maybe a little more. What it does, is it allows us to land the first stage for (GTO) missions on the drone ship."

News Item A-3: "Blue Origin Plans to Start Suborbital Flight Test This Year" by Frank Morring, Jr, Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, April 7th, 2015.

Blue Origin has completed acceptance flight tests of its cryogenic (BE-3) deep-throttle engine, and plans to begin autonomous flight tests with the reusable New Shepard suborbital human spacecraft it will power later this year.

Rob Meyerson, President of the secretive company, bankrolled by Amazon.com founder, Jeff Bezos, said April 7 “we’re probably a few years away from selling tickets” on "New Shepard," but the completion of acceptance testing was a big hurdle to clear.

The 110,000 lb thrust engine can be throttled down to 20,000 lb thrust for a vertical landing, Meyerson said. New Shepard testing at the company’s facility in West Texas will begin in autonomous mode, with the Blue Origin crew eventually occupying the vehicle’s three seats for the initial push to 100 km (the traditional altitude where space is said to begin).

Ultimately, paying passengers will fly from the Blue Origin site in Van Horn, Texas, either for tourism or research. The vehicle’s booster will lift them to the suborbital altitude, before flying back to a tail-down landing at the launch site. The crew capsule will return to the same facility via parachute, after providing about four minutes of microgravity to its passengers and experimental payloads, Meyerson said, declining to announce a price for the service.

Flight testing New Shepard also will allow the company to build time on the (BE-3), a liquid-oxygen, liquid-hydrogen engine, the company plans to upgrade as a commercial product designated (BE-3U) for upper stage use. That will require a larger nozzle and other changes.

“To make the (BE-3) into a (BE-3U), the simplest change could be a large expansion ratio nozzle, which is designed to operate at altitude,” Meyerson said. “But there will be other changes we’ll make as we fly the (BE-3) in our suborbital flights. We could theoretically, with our plans have dozens if not hundreds of flights with the New Shepard vehicle with the (BE-3), before we fly an upper stage (BE-3U). So we could do performance improvements if our customer base needs that.”

That base could include United Launch Alliance, which already has said it will buy Blue Origin’s (BE-4) hydrocarbon-fuel main-stage rocket engine for its next-generation launcher. That engine is in testing at the component level (the power pack and a subscale injector) and is on schedule as a rapid follow-on to the Russian-built RD-180 engine, with full-scale testing set to begin next year, according to Meyerson.

“The (BE-4) is a first-of-its-kind engine to be developed in the USA). It uses liquefied natural gas to produce 550,000 pounds of thrust,” Meyerson said. “The (BE-4) offers the lowest cost and is the fastest path to production for an American-made engine. The engine is more than >3 years into development, and we’re now on track to conduct full engine testing in 2016 and complete development of the engine by 2017, two to three years ahead of any other alternative engine that’s out there.”

News Item A-4: April 16th - - "SpaceX Checks Throttle Valve After Flawed Falcon 9 Recovery Attempt" by Guy Norris, Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

SpaceX (SPX) is thought to be focusing on static friction in an engine throttle valve as the prime suspect for the loss of the Falcon 9 first stage during the third attempt at recovering the booster.

The Falcon 9 was seconds away from what would have been the first successful landing of a used booster stage on SpaceX (SPX)’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), when the vehicle toppled over and was destroyed. The landing attempt occurred following the launch on April 14 of SpaceX’s sixth cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Video of the stage descending to the landing ship showed the vehicle approaching quickly but decelerating. However, closer to the platform, the Falcon 9 showed an excessive horizontal velocity component that prompted the single engine used for landing, to gimbal to correct the flight path angle. Exhaust from the Merlin engine could be seen raising clouds of water from around the platform as the stage maneuvered close to the edge of the landing zone. The control system then commanded vectoring of the engine nozzle to an angle that effectively over-compensated for the previous flight path angle correction. By this time the vehicle was too low to make further corrections and landed at too great a tilt and speed to safely land.

SpaceX (SPX) Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Elon Musk tweeted that “excess lateral velocity caused it [the booster] to tip over post landing.” In a later tweet that was subsequently withdrawn, Musk then indicated that “the issue was stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag.” In this statement, Musk was referring to “stiction” (or static friction) in the valve controlling the throttling of the engine. The friction appears to have momentarily slowed the response of the engine, causing the control system to command more of an extreme reaction from the propulsion system than was required. As a result, the control system entered a form of hysteresis, a condition in which the control response lags behind changes in the effect causing it.

Despite the failure of the latest attempt, (SPX) will be encouraged by the landing accuracy of the Falcon 9 and the bigger-picture success of its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system in bringing the booster back to the drone ship. The (GNC) also worked as designed during the prior landing attempt in January, which ended in the destruction of the vehicle following a hard touchdown on the edge of the platform.

Other control system modifications also appear to have functioned according to plan. These include aerodynamic mesh fins that were added in place of gaseous nitrogen control thrusters, that were tested to control the rotation that occurred on the first test flight in September 2013. Prototype versions of the steerable fins were tested for the first time in May 2014 on a flight of the Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) experimental vehicle during a test that reached an altitude of 1,000 meters. (SPX) is developing a new (F9R) after the first one was destroyed in August last year during a test at the company’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.


Those Scaled Composites guys are at it again. Having a billionaire paying for it helps a lot.



Imagine the 320-foot span Spruce Goose. Then picture an aircraft larger than that.

An aircraft, backed by Seattle's Paul Allen, is expected to have a 385-foot wing span and will be used deliver satellites to space. It is reportedly being called "Roc."

"This thing is absolutely huge," AviationWeek.com Senior Editor, Guy Norris told The Dori Monson Show.

The "Roc" is being assembled in Mojave, California for Stratolaunch System's space launch program. It is being built by Scaled Composites.

Powered by six Boeing 747-400 engines, along with other parts salvaged from two 747s, the twin-fuselage carrier aircraft closely resembles the WhiteKnightTwo.

Once complete, the Roc will be mostly wing, according to Norris. Basically, its sole purpose is to fly to a high enough altitude to deliver satellites.

Norris said when the Roc is in space it will fire rockets to deliver satellites. The Roc will reportedly have a crew of three: a pilot, co-pilot and engineer.

"To be quite honest with you, it has been quite a secret up until now," he said.

Norris said the most difficult aspect of launching an aircraft into space is escaping earth's gravity - just that first few miles into the air. That's why the Roc will be mostly wing and engine.

The rocket used to launch a satellite is going to be named Thunderbolt, after one of Paul Allen's childhood toys. It will weigh more than >500,000 pounds and be 130-feet long, Norris told Dori. Combined with everything on it, the Roc will weigh about 1.3 million pounds.

But why did a project like this draw Paul Allen's attention, Dori wondered.

"I imagine it is the uniqueness of it," Norris responded.

The Roc is scheduled to fly sometime in 2016.

"It's going to be as big as you can imagine," Norris said.

May 2015: "5 Things to Know About SpaceX’s Pad Abort Test"
By Marcel van Leeuwen, aviationnews.eu, May 5, 2015.

Crew Dragon’s first critical flight test, known as a "Pad Abort Test," is expected took place on May 6, from SpaceX (SPX)’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. While the test is originating from the same launch pad used for operational missions, this was not an operational flight.

This was the first flight test of SpaceX’s revolutionary new launch abort system. Fortunately the test didn’t need to be perfect to be valuable (the primary objective was to capture as much data as possible as the data captured here which is key in preparing Crew Dragon for its first human missions in 2017.

1. What is a Pad Abort Test?

A Pad Abort Test is a trial run for a spacecraft’s launch abort system (sometimes called a launch escape system). This system is designed to quickly get the crew and spacecraft away from the rocket in the event of a potential failure. It is similar to an ejection seat for a fighter pilot, but instead of ejecting the pilot out of the spacecraft, the entire spacecraft is “ejected” away from the launch vehicle.

2. How is SpaceX’s Launch Abort System different than those of other spacecraft?

Previous launch abort systems have been powered by a rocket tower mounted on top of the spacecraft. During an emergency, the tower would ignite and essentially pull the spacecraft to safety. This works well while the spacecraft is on the launch pad and for a few minutes into ascent, but once the vehicle reaches a certain altitude, the system is no longer useful and must be discarded.

SpaceX’s launch abort system, however, is integrated directly into the spacecraft. This means Crew Dragon will have launch escape capability from the launch pad all the way to orbit.

Instead of a separate rocket tower mounted on top of the spacecraft, (SPX)'s launch abort system leverages eight SuperDraco rocket engines built into the walls of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The SuperDracos are capable of producing 120,000 lbs of axial thrust in under a second, which results in transporting the Crew Dragon spacecraft nearly 100 meters/328 ft in 2 seconds, and more than half a km/1/3 mi) in just over 5 seconds.

3. What is hoped to be learnt from this test?

As the first flight test of SpaceX (SPX)’s launch abort system, every piece of data gathered moves (SPX) closer to its first crewed flights in 2017. At a top level, (SPX) is looking to demonstrate the overall effectiveness of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system, along with a handful of more specific objectives.

4. Will there be anyone on board during the pad abort test?

There will be a dummy on board the spacecraft, but despite popular belief, his name is not "Buster." "Buster the Dummy" already works for a great show you may have heard of called "MythBusters." The SpaceX dummy prefers to remain anonymous for the time being.

The purpose of the dummy is to collect data on the forces (gravitational loads) being experienced inside the spacecraft. This along with data gathered from the vehicle will help ensure crewmembers can withstand the environments seen during a launch abort.

5. What’s Next?

Pending the outcome of the pad abort test, SpaceX (SPX) will then conduct an in-flight abort test. With the in-flight abort, (SPX) will test the same launch abort system, however, this time in mid-flight during an actual launch. Both the pad abort and in-flight abort will be challenging tests, but the data gathered here will be key to helping develop one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown.

June 2015: (NASA) (NAS) may delay awarding the next round of space-cargo delivery contracts pending an investigation into what caused the latest SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to explode after takeoff, the 2nd failure in the USA program in less than a year - - see attached "Seattle Times" article - "SPX-2015-06 - SpaceX Falcon 9 Fails-A/B.jpg."

July 2015: (NASA) (NAS) has selected experienced astronauts: Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley, and Sunita Williams to work closely with The Boeing Company (TBC) and SpaceX (SPX) to develop their crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

(NASA) selected the four astronauts to train and prepare for commercial spaceflights that will return American launches to USA soil and further open up low-Earth orbit transportation to the private sector. The selections are the latest major milestone in the Obama Administration's plan to partner with USA industry to transport astronauts to space, create good-paying American jobs and end the nation's sole reliance on Russia for space travel.

November 2015: News Item A: See "SPX-2015-11 - Update A/B.jpg."

News Item B: "Be an Astronaut: (NASA) Seeks Explorers for Future Space Missions" by www.aviationnews.eu Rob Vogelaar, November 4, 2015.

In anticipation of returning human spaceflight launches to American soil, and in preparation for (NAS)’s journey to Mars, (NASA) announced it will soon begin accepting applications for the next class of astronaut candidates. With more human spacecraft in development in the USA today than at any other time in history, future astronauts will launch once again from the Space Coast of Florida on American-made commercial spacecraft, and carry out deep-space exploration missions that will advance a future human mission to Mars.

(NAS) will accept applications from December 14 through mid-February and expects to announce candidates selected in mid-2017. Applications for consideration as a (NASA) Astronaut will be accepted at:


The next class of astronauts may fly on any of four different USA vessels during their careers: the International Space Station (ISS), two commercial crew spacecraft currently in development by USA companies, and (NASA)’s Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.

From pilots (FC) and engineers, to scientists and medical doctors, (NASA) selects qualified astronaut candidates from a diverse pool of USA citizens with a wide variety of backgrounds. “This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet,” said (NASA) Administrator, Charles Bolden. “Those selected for this service will fly on USA made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the International Space Station, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.”

The space agency is guiding an unprecedented transition to commercial spacecraft for crew and cargo transport to the space station. Flights in Boeing (TBC)’s (CST-100) Starliner and SpaceX (SPX) Crew Dragon will facilitate adding a seventh crew member to each station mission, effectively doubling the amount of time astronauts will be able to devote to research in space.

Future station crew members will continue the vital work advanced during the last 15 years of continuous human habitation aboard the orbiting laboratory, expanding scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies. This work will include building on the regular six-month missions and this year’s one-year mission, currently underway aboard the station, which is striving for research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space.

In addition, (NASA)’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, now in development, will launch astronauts on missions to the proving ground of lunar orbit where (NASA) will learn to conduct complex operations in a deep space environment before moving on to longer duration missions on its journey to Mars.

“This is an exciting time to be a part of America’s human space flight program,” said Brian Kelly, Director of Flight Operations at (NASA)’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “(NASA) has taken the next step in the evolution of our nation’s human spaceflight program (and our USA astronauts will be at the forefront of these new and challenging space flight missions). We encourage all qualified applicants to learn more about the opportunities for astronauts at (NASA) and apply to join our flight operations team.”

To date, (NASA) has selected more than >300 astronauts to fly on its increasingly challenging missions to explore space and benefit life on Earth. There are 47 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, and more will be needed to crew future missions to the space station and destinations in deep space.

Astronaut candidates must have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable. Candidates also must have at least three years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command (FC) time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the (NASA) long-duration spaceflight physical.

For more information about a career as a (NASA) astronaut, and application requirements, visit:


December 2015: News Item A-1: Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA: - A USA shipment of much needed groceries and other astronaut supplies rocketed towards the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time in months reigniting (NASA)'s commercial delivery service.

The Orbital (ATK) Cygnus capsule's arrival at the (ISS) was the first USA delivery since last spring. The 6 (ISS) astronauts (2 of them deep into a 1 year mission) have gone without USA shipments since last April.

Orbital (ATK) bought another company's rocket, the veteran Atlas V, for this mission. Orbital's previous grocery run (its 4th) exploded after liftoff in October 2014. SpaceX (SPX), the other supplier, suffered a launch failure in June.

This is the first time that United Launch Alliance's Atlas V, normally used for hefty satellite launchers, has served the (ISS) space station.

Boeing (TBC) intends to use the Atlas V to boost its Starliner capsules to ferry astronauts to the (ISS) beginning in 2017.

SpaceX (SPX) (also part of (NASA)'s commercial crew effort) aims to restart station deliveries in January 2016 with its Falcon rockets.

January 2016: See attached - "SPX-2016-01 - Space Progress.jpg."

March 2016: News Item A-1: The ExoMars 2016 mission, a collaboration between the European and Russian space agencies, blasted off from Kazakhstan on March 14. The spacecraft, which consists of an orbiter that will measure methane and other gases in the Martian atmosphere and a lander that will study dust storms, was carried by a Russian Proton rocket. It is expected to arrive in October.

News Item A-2: The six astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) got an early Easter treat with the arrival of a supply spaceship full of fresh food and experiments.

The delivery by Orbital (ATK)'s Cygnus capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA on March 22. It was the first of three shipments coming up in quick succession.

A Russian cargo spaceship will lift off March 31, followed by a SpaceX (SPX) supply run on April 8.

April 2016: "SpaceX Makes First-ever Barge Landing of Rocket."

After four unsuccessful attempts to land an un-manned rocket on a football-field-size floating platform at sea, Elon Musk'S SpaceX finally pulled off the feat in its first launch to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) since its rocket exploded last year.

See attached New York Times and Associated Press article by Christian Davenport, of The Washington Post:
"SPX-2016-04 - SpaceX Rocket Barge Landing.jpg"

May 2016: News Item A-1: For the second month in a row, the aerospace startup SpaceX landed a rocket on an ocean platform off Florida, this time after the successful launch of a Japanese communications satellite.

News Item A-2: See attached - - "SPX-2016-05 - Possible Life.jpg."

June 2016: See: "SPX-2016-09 - Falcon 9 Rocket Progress.jpg."

September 2016: News Item A-1: "Dramatic Video Captures SpaceX Rocket Explosion at Launch Site" by ABC News Paul Blake, September 1, 2016.


This video is dramatic footage of the moment that a SpaceX rocket exploded at a launchpad in Florida. The video, recorded by USLaunchReport and provided to (ABC) News, shows the doomed SpaceX Falcon rocket during the ill-fated fueling process.

All appears normal with the rocket, upright and connected to various ground infrastructure, before an explosion flashes from the top third of the rocket, sending a ball of fire outward and raining flames onto the tarmac. In the 1st few seconds, the fireball rushes upward like a mushroom cloud, while streams of fire shoot out from below.

Within about 4 seconds of the initial flash, the fireball (which at this point has consumed and obscured the rocket and its million-dollar payload) convulses outward with bulging deep orange flames and billowing black smoke. Within about 6 seconds, the fireball reaches its peak, with black smoke beginning to overtake the flames and the melting rocket remnants and an adjacent tower silhouetted against the diminishing fireball.

About 10 seconds after the initial flash, as flames and black smoke continue to consume the launch site, the conelike rocket top appears, peeling off support infrastructure and crashing to the ground. A second fireball emerges with a flash of yellow and flying debris.

Approximately 12 seconds after the flash, the 1st explosion can be heard (a delay due to the fact that the video was shot at a distance). The first explosion sounds muted compared with the explosion heard four seconds later, a violent crashing sound that is followed by rumble, which persists for >20 seconds and is interspersed with smaller booms.

For several more minutes, a smaller ball of orange flames and pitch black smoke persists where the rocket stood. A second large explosion rocks the site, about 2 1/2 minutes after the first explosion, just when the initial fireball begins to die down and black smoke overtakes the site.

The explosion shoots upward from the ground, with billowing orange and yellow mushroom like clouds, traced by streaks of black smoke. The fire continues raging for several minutes until the video ends.

(ABC) News' Fergal Gallagher contributed to this report.

News Item A-2: "Rocket Explosion a Setback for SpaceX and its Customers", by Steve Lohr, The New York Times, September 5, 2016.

The explosion of a SpaceX rocket on September 1st will have an impact across the space industry, far beyond the losses on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Planned launches of communications satellites that support international mobile-phone service and digital television are delayed and put in doubt. (NASA)'s cargo deliveries to the International Space Station (ISS) may be disrupted.

All of them are customers of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, whose rocket exploded in Florida. The private space launch company led by entrepreneur Elon Musk, has a generally solid safety record. But the September 1st setback and a failed launch last year, when its rocket carrying (NASA) cargo fell apart in flight, are raising questions about SpaceX, a company that has risen rapidly by offering lower costs and promising accelerated launch schedules.

For commercial telecommunications customers, getting a satellite manufactured is costly, taking two years or more and costing $200 million to $400 million each.

The launch itself is a high-risk step. but once in orbit the satellites are money spinners. The investment is paid back with hefty profits for as long as they last, which could be as much as a decade.

Among the commercial satellite operators lined up for SpaceX launches this year are Iridium Communications, (SES) of Luxembourg, EchoStar and (KT) Corporation of South Korea.

Revenue for satellite services last year was $127.4 billion, according to a report by the Tauri Group, a research firm, for the Satellite Industry Association. The launch business is small by comparison - $5.4 billion in revenue last year.

September 2016: News Item A-1: The 28-member European Union (EU) and 16 other European countries have committed to joining (ICAO)’s global carbon-offsetting program from its outset in 2021.

The USA and Chinese governments have jointly declared they plan to be early participants in the global market-based measure (GMBM), the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, and the Marshall Islands have also committed to joining early.

The (EU) and other European countries adopted the Bratislava Declaration on September 9. It was endorsed September 3 by the 44-nation European Civil Aviation Conference, which brings together the member countries’ Directors Generals of Civil Aviation.

A resolution on the proposed GMBM will be presented for adoption at the (ICAO) Assembly, which will be September 27 – October 7 in Montreal. The first global standard for aircraft carbon dioxide emissions will be presented for adoption at the event as part of the “basket of measures” intended to enable international aviation to achieve carbon-neutral growth beyond 2020.

Environmental groups have criticized the proposed (GMBM) for being watered down by the political maneuvering needed to achieve consensus. Environmentalists say participation by all major nations (as measured by international aviation activity) in the initial voluntary phases of (CORSIA) will be essential to achieving meaningful reductions in carbon emissions.

News Item A-3: Nascent space–based surveillance company Aireon has
joined forces with flight tracking specialist FlightAware to offer airlines a Web-based aircraft tracking tool, which will provide updates every 1 minute. The companies said their new GlobalBeacon system will satisfy the normal mode and distress mode tracking standards adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The two modes will be implemented in 2018 and 2021, respectively, and
are part of the organization’s Global Aeronautical Distress & Safety System (GADSS). The (ICAO) developed (GADSS) in 2015 in response to the March 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The Boeing 777-200ER dropped from radar on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The main wreckage has yet to be found, but several components of the aircraft have been recovered from islands or countries on the western edges of the Indian Ocean, the suspected crash site.

(GADSS), if implemented by (ICAO) member countries, will require airlines to track aircraft in areas outside of radar coverage at least every 15 minutes during normal operations, and every 1 minute should the aircraft experience a defined set of route, altitude or other deviations indicating a potential anomaly. The 1 minute update is designed to limit the search and rescue area to approximately 6 nm by 6 nm.

With GlobalBeacon, Aireon and FlightAware will offer continuous 1 minute tracking all at times using surveillance data from Aireon’s space-based (ADS-B) network and FlightAware’s existing flight tracking feeds and assets. FlightAware (CEO) Daniel Baker said airline customers will use the system through a Web-based, real-time aircraft tracking dashboard. It will feature configurable alerts, providing an airline customer with immediate notification of abnormal events.

The companies will offer GlobalBeacon as a standalone Web-based product, or as an additional data stream to complement FlightAware’s radar and ground-based (ADS-B) surveillance data feeds. FlightAware receives data from approximately 50 air navigation service providers (ANSPs) globally, and has “dozens” of airlines customers, Baker said.

Aireon, while not yet in operation, has signed up a number (ANSP)s to receive the data, once the Iridium Next constellation of 66 polar-orbiting satellites is operational. They include Nav Canada and the (ANSP)s of Italy, Denmark, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, the UK and Curacao. The company’s (ADS-B) receivers will fly as hosted payloads on the Iridium Next satellites, which are slated for first launch in November on Space X (SPX)’s Falcon 9 rocket. Iridium had intended to launch the first 10 satellites on a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg (AFB), California, in early September, but the launch was canceled after a Falcon 9 upper stage exploded during fueling September 1 at the Cape Canaveral, Florida, launch site, destroying the booster and satellite payload. Aireon captures (ADS-B) position information, as well as >50 other data fields, from the (ADS-B) transponders and crown-mounted antennas airlines are installing to meet global mandates for satellite-based surveillance.

The companies noted that GlobalBeacon requires no new flight or ground infrastructure. Most interest in the new product is coming from the international airline community. In many countries, airlines had not previously been required to track their aircraft.

Baker said the GlobalBeacon service will cost $80 – $100 per aircraft per month, based on fleet size.

John Croft, john.croft@aviationweek.com

January 2017: News Item A-1: "Boeing's (ABS)-2A 702 Satellite Enters Service."

The 2nd 702 satellite built by Boeing (TBC) for Bermuda-based communication satellite operator (ABS) went into service on January 21. The all-electronic propulsion satellite, designated (ABS-2A), was launched into orbit in June 2016 aboard SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 and is paired with another satellite, (ABS-2), over the Indian Ocean.

(ABS-2A) is outfitted with 48 Ku-band transponders. From its placement at 74.725 degrees east, the satellite will serve (ABS) customers in Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Russia, South Asia, and SE Asia.

Boeing (TBC)’s earlier all-electric propulsion 702 satellite, designated (ABS-3A), was launched in 2015. (ABS-2), built by Palo Alto, California-based satellite manufacturer (SSL), was launched in 2014. (SSL)’s satellite uses fuel-powered thrusters for its propulsion. “We have completed our 3 satellite build investment in launching 3 satellites in 3 consecutive years,” (ABS) (CEO) Tom Choi said. “Boeing is the 1st satellite manufacturer to build and deliver all-electric propulsion satellites,” Boeing Satellite Systems International President Mark Spiwak said. “The scalable 702 satellite, coupled with all-electric propulsion, allows 2 satellites to launch inside 1 rocket. This ability to stack and join the satellites minimize[s] the costs associated with launching a single satellite.”

When (ABS-2A) was launched in June 2016, it was paired with EUTELSAT 117 West B (E117WB), also a Boeing-built all-electric propulsion satellite. Boeing built it for Paris-based Eutelsat. Eutelsat announced earlier this month that (E117WB) is also now in service.

February 2017: At 9:30 am ET February 19, 2017, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Dragon spacecraft lifted off from Launch Complex 39A to deliver nearly 5,500 lbs of cargo and supplies for the International Space Station (ISS). This marked (SPX)'s 1st launch from the Kennedy Space Center's historic pad and the 1st launch from the LC-39A since July 2011 when Atlantis lifted off for the final flight of the Shuttle Program.

Over the next 2 days Dragon will conduct a series of height adjust and co-elliptic burns to bring it closer to the (ISS) culminating with capture of Dragon by the (ISS)'s robotic arm and berthing of the spacecraft to the Harmony module of the (ISS). For about a month, crew members will unload the spacecraft and reload it with cargo to return to Earth.

March 2017: News Item A-1: A SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 rocket carrying an EchoStar satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on March 16. The communications satellite was deployed into orbit high above Earth 35 minutes later.

News Item A-2: SpaceX (SPX) won a $96.5 million contract to launch a (GPS) satellite for the US Air Force in February 2019. (SPX) was certified by the Air Force in 2015 to launch national-security satellites, breaking up a longtime and lucrative monopoly held by a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture called United Launch Alliance.

Last year, (SPX) won its 1st national-security satellite launch contract worth $82.7 million. United Launch Alliance did not bid on that contract. A Department of Defense contract notice said 2 offers were received for the most recent (GPS) satellite bid.

May 2017: News Item A-1: Aireon announced that NAV CANADA has completed a successful flight test of space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology. The test was conducted to collect (ADS-B) data used for validating Aireon's satellite aircraft surveillance and tracking service. The NAV CANADA flight occurred on March 7, 2017 and utilized a specially equipped Bombardier (BMB) aircraft with both top and bottom mounted 125 watt (ADS-B) antennas. It was the 1st of 2 scheduled flight tests by the Canadian Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP). Additional flight tests were done by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Polaris Flight Systems.

During the flight test, 6,935 (ADS-B) messages were received and decoded by a single Aireon payload, and after rigorous analysis, were found to exhibit comparable results to that of terrestrial (ADS-B) stations. Traveling through the Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton Flight Information Regions (FIRs), the flight test was a highly choreographed exercise requiring the aircraft to position itself in the correct airspace while the appropriate Iridium NEXT satellite carrying the Aireon (ADS-B) receiver was overhead.

An additional flight test with the (FAA) took place on Thursday, March 30, 2017, utilizing the (FAA)'s specially equipped "flying laboratory" (BMB) jet with 3 Aireon payloads available to receive data. A total of 2,462 (ADS-B) messages were received and decoded while also exhibiting comparable results to that of terrestrial (ADS-B) stations. The (FAA) flight test took place in the Washington and New York (FIR)s.

Aireon also conducted a flight test with Polaris Flight Systems, a private vendor, on March 20, 2017. The aircraft, a Beechcraft Bonanza, was outfitted with a top and bottom mounted 200 watt (ADS-B) antenna and flew solely through the Albuquerque (FIR), where >1,050 (ADS-B) messages were received from 2 Aireon payloads during the flight.

"The flight tests coordinated with NAV CANADA, the (FAA), and Polaris Flight Systems have been remarkable successes and further enable our team to thoroughly validate the capabilities of our system," said Vinny Capezzuto, Chief Technology Officer & VP Engineering at Aireon. "Through multiple flight information regions, with various levels of aircraft traffic, these tests were able to put our system through some challenging environments, and the data we've received is incredibly strong."

"NAV CANADA is excited to play such an important role in helping to bring the next-generation of air traffic surveillance and aircraft tracking to the world," said Rudy Kellar Executive VP Service Delivery at NAV CANADA. "Aireon will fundamentally change the way the world flies, increasing safety, efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The benefits will find their way right down to the individual traveler who will benefit from more predictable flight times and more efficient airport ground operations."

Aireon's space-based (ADS-B) system will be operational in 2018, providing (ANSP)s with global air traffic surveillance and airlines with real-time flight tracking. The 1st 10 Iridium NEXT satellites carrying the Aireon hosted-payloads were launched into low-Earth-orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 rocket on January 14, 2017. 7 additional (SPX) launches are scheduled to take place over the next 12 to 15 months, including the 2nd launch targeted for June of 2017. In total, the operational constellation will consist of 66 satellites, with an additional 9 serving as on-orbit spares.

News Item A-2: SpaceX (SPX) launched a commercial communications satellite on May 15, the 6th launch of the year for (SPX) (CEO) Elon Musk's company. The Inmarsat-5 F4 satellite, built by Boeing (TBC), left the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and was deployed about 30 minutes after liftoff.

Unlike in past launches, SpaceX (SPX) did not attempt to land the 1st stage booster. Getting the unusually large 13,500 lb satellite into its geostationary orbit burned more fuel than a typical Falcon 9 rocket launch.

News Item A-2: Global mobile satellite communications services provider Inmarsat launched the 4th high-speed broadband communications satellite in its Global Xpress program, Inmarsat-5 F4 (I-5 F4).

According to Inmarsat, the Boeing-built I-5 F4 satellite was launched May 16 by SpaceX (SPX) on a Falcon 9 rocket at (NASA)’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

I-5 F4 joins the 3 GX satellites already in orbit, which have, since December 2015, been “delivering unprecedented service speeds, global coverage, reliability and security to users on land, at sea and in the air,” Inmarsat said in a statement. “The 4th satellite adds further capacity to the GX network, as well as in-orbit redundancy that further upgrades the reliability and resilience of Inmarsat’s service offerings.”

Inmarsat (CEO) Rupert Pearce said, “Delivering global commercial services over the GX network, which we achieved at the end of 2015, was only the start of our Global Xpress project. I-5 F4 augments the capabilities of GX and, alongside our existing L-band constellations, enables Inmarsat to provide guaranteed global connectivity to industries and governments worldwide.”

Inmarsat GX is the 1st globally available, broadband connectivity service and was created to enable communities across the world to benefit from the emerging digital society.

The 1st Global Xpress satellite (Inmarsat-5 F1) was launched in December 2013 and entered commercial service in July 2014, covering Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. This was followed by the launch of Inmarsat-5 F2 on February 1, 2015, which covers the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean and entered commercial service in August. Inmarsat-5 F3 was launched August 28, 2015, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on an International Launch Services Proton Breeze M launch vehicle.

July 2017: * Space Council: USA President Donald Trump signed an executive order to re-establish the National Space Council, reviving an entity that was formed during the 1960s race between the USA and the Soviet Union to reach the moon first.

The council, to be led by USA Vice President Mike Pence, will be a forum to shape the Trump administration's approach to space as private sector companies including Elon Musk's SpaceX (SPX) and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin emerge as key players.

February 2018: News Item A-1: "SpaceX Falcon 9 Takeoff" By MARCIA DUNN The Associated Press.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida, USA (AP) — SpaceX (SPX)’s big new rocket blasted off February 6 on its 1st test flight, carrying a red sports car aiming for an endless road trip past Mars.

The Falcon Heavy rose from the same launch pad used by (NASA) nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today, doubling the liftoff punch of its closest competitor. The 3 boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center, as thousands watched from surrounding beaches, bridges and roads, jamming the highways in scenes unmatched since (NASA)’s last space shuttle flight. At SpaceX Mission Control in Southern California, employees screamed, whistled and raised pumped fists into the air as the launch commentators called off each milestone. Millions more watched online, making it the 2nd biggest livestream in YouTube history.

2 of the boosters (both recycled from previous launches) returned minutes later for simultaneous, side-by-side touchdowns on land at Cape Canaveral. Sonic booms rumbled across the region with the vertical landings.

Perhaps even more riveting than watching the launch (and simultaneous, side-by-side booster landings) were the video images beamed down of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster circling the blue planet. A space-suited mannequin was at the wheel, named “Starman” after the David Bowie song.

“It’s kind of silly and fun, but I think that silly and fun things are important,” said the SpaceX Chief who also runs Tesla and is keen to colonize Mars. “The imagery of it is something that’s going to get people excited around the world.”

Musk later revealed the 3rd booster, brand new, slammed into the Atlantic at 300 mph and missed the floating landing platform, scattering shrapnel all over the deck and knocking out 2 engines.
He was unfazed by the lost booster and said watching the other 2 land upright probably was the most exciting thing he’s ever seen.

Before liftoff, “I had this image of just a giant explosion on the pad, a wheel bouncing down the road, the Tesla logo landing somewhere,” he said. “But fortunately, that’s not what happened.”
Musk’s rocketing Roadster is shooting for a solar orbit that will reach all the way to Mars.

Ballast for a rocket debut is usually concrete (“so boring,” Musk said in a post-launch news conference).

The Roadster was anything but. Cameras mounted on the car fed stunning video of “Starman” tooling around Earth, looking something like a NASCAR racer out for a Sunday drive, with its right hand on the wheel and the left arm resting on the car’s door. A sign on the dashboard read: “Don’t panic!” Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” played in the background at one point. A Hot Wheels roadster was also on the dash with a tiny spaceman on board.

The Falcon Heavy is a combination of 3 Falcon 9s, the rocket that the company uses to ship supplies to the International Space Station and lift satellites. SpaceX (SPX) is reusing 1st-stage boosters to save on launch costs. Most other rocket makers discard their spent boosters in the ocean.

Unlike most rockets out there, the Falcon Heavy receives no government funding. The hulking rocket is intended for massive satellites, like those used by the USA military and major-league communication companies. Even before the successful test flight, customers were signed up. “It was awesome like a science fiction movie coming to reality,” said former (NASA) Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Apollo professor of astronautics. “They nailed it. Good for them.”

Given the high stakes and high drama, Tuesday’s launch attracted huge crowds not seen since (NASA)’s final space shuttle flight 7 years ago. While the shuttles had more liftoff muscle than the Heavy, the all-time leaders in both size and might were (NASA)’s Saturn V rockets, which 1st flew astronauts to the moon in 1968.

On the eve of the flight, Musk said the company had done all it could to maximize success. Musk has plenty of experience with rocket accidents, from his original Falcon 1 test flights to his follow-up Falcon 9s, 1 of which exploded on a nearby pad during a 2016 ignition test. “I’ve seen rockets blow up so many different ways, so, yeah, it’s a great relief when it actually works,” Musk said after liftoff.

Not counting Apollo moon buggies, the Roadster is the 1st automobile to speed right off the planet. The car faces considerable speed bumps before settling into its intended orbit around the sun, an oval circle stretching from the orbit of Earth on 1 end to the orbit of Mars on the other. It has to endure a cosmic bombardment during several hours of cruising through the highly charged Van Allen radiation belts encircling Earth. Finally, a thruster has to fire to put the car on the right orbital course. The car battery was expected to last for about 12 hours after liftoff. If it weathers all this, the Roadster will reach the vicinity of Mars in 6 months, Musk said. The car could be traveling between Earth and Mars’ neighborhoods for a billion years, according to the high-tech billionaire.

“Maybe discovered by some future alien race, thinking what were you guys doing? Did they worship this car? Why did they have a little car? That will really confuse them,” Musk said. Musk acknowledged the Roadster could come “quite close” to Mars during its epic cruise, with only a remote chance of crashing into the red planet.

Also on board in a protected storage unit is Isaac Asimov’s science fiction series, “Foundation.” A plaque contains the names of the more than 6,000 SpaceX employees.

The Heavy already is rattling the launch market. Its sticker price is $90 million, less than one-tenth the estimated cost of (NASA)’s Space Launch System megarocket in development for moon and Mars expeditions.

SpaceX (SPX) has decided against flying passengers on the Heavy, Musk said, and instead will accelerate development of an even bigger rocket to accommodate deep-space crews. His ultimate goal is to establish a city on Mars. “If people think we’re in a race with the Chinese, this is our secret weapon: the entrepreneurship of people like Elon and others like Jeff Bezos,” said Stanford University’s G Scott Hubbard, (NASA)’s 1st Mars czar.

Amazon’s Bezos heads Blue Origin, which is developing a big, reusable orbital-class rocket and already is making suborbital flights in Texas. “Woohoo!” Bezos said in a congratulatory tweet.

News Item A-2: "As Elon Musk goads Boeing-Lockheed rival, space industry squabbles over cocktail reception for the USA Vice President"
By Christian Davenport, The Washington Post, February 16, 2018.

With billions at stake in the race for space, no event is too small for contenders to jostle over influence. That’s why a reception before the 2nd National Space Council gathering ballooned into such a big deal.

After he launched his giant new rocket into space this month, Elon Musk said he was spoiling for a good race in space. He learned his rivals were up for the challenge, even when it involves such terrestrial trivialities as a cocktail party.

Ahead of the 2nd meeting of the White House’s National Space Council in Florida, a consortium of upstart entrepreneurial companies known as the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which includes SpaceX (SPX), decided to host a reception for members of the council, who just happen to be some of the most powerful players in Washington. Headed by USA VP Mike Pence, the policymaking council is made up of the Secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Transportation and Defense as well as other top government officials.

But when the groups representing some of the more traditional space contractors, such as Boeing (TBC) and Lockheed Martin, caught wind of the party, they complained to the White House, which agreed that they, too, should host the reception.

* The ultimate party crash?

More like “we wanted to make sure the entirety of the industry was represented to the council and not just a subset,” said one industry official not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. As a result, what started as a simple soiree has ballooned into a full-on convocation, according to 5 industry and government officials who discussed the back and forth, agreeing to speak only on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Some history: Once derided as an “ankle biter” by its competitors, SpaceX (SPX), and the entrepreneurial industry it has helped spawn, has emerged as a disruptive force that has forced the space industry establishment to improvise and adapt. (SPX) currently has contracts, worth several billion dollars to fly cargo and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). And it is threatening the lock that the United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of Lockheed and Boeing (TBC), have long had over the lucrative national security market. Such is the intensity of their rivalry, that when industry veterans heard that (SPX) and its ilk in the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) planned to host an low-key gathering with the USA VP and others ahead of the Space Council meeting, they launched an all-out lobbying blitz insisting they be included.

“It charged up a lot of groups when it was a (CSF)-only thing,” said 1 official. After taking their complaints to the Space Council, the party, to be held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, grew in size and is now being hosted by the Aerospace Industries Association, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, as well as the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF).

Eric Stallmer, the President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation formally welcomed the new co-hosts, saying it is to be an “inclusive event that celebrates the achievements and innovations of the American space industry.” He said his group looks “forward to the work the VP and the Council are doing to help move America forward on our shared goals and dreams that space offers. We are partnering on this event with our association colleagues to showcase the best and brightest aspects of American ingenuity.”

As the groups were squabbling behind the scenes over who should host the reception, Musk was antagonizing Tory Bruno, the (CEO) of rival United Launch Alliance (ULA), the joint venture of Boeing (TBC) and Lockheed Martin. On Twitter, Musk went after the cost of his competitor’s rocket, saying the price was >$400 million for a launch of (ULA)’s Delta IV Heavy rocket, far greater than his Falcon Heavy rocket.

Bruno responded by saying that the cost was actually $350 million, and that his company was developing another rocket, known as Vulcan, which (ULA) has said will be even more competitive when it starts flying.
But Musk said he didn’t think the rocket would be certified by the Air Force to be able to launch Pentagon missions any time soon.

“I will seriously eat my hat with a side of mustard if that rocket flies a national security spacecraft before 2023,” he wrote on Twitter. The next day, Bruno tweeted a picture of a (ULA)-logoed lunchbox and a baseball cap.

News Item A-2: "SpaceX Launches Spanish satellite, 2 others from California" by John Antczak, "The Associated Press (AP),

Los Angeles (AP) — An Earth-observation satellite built for Spain and 2 experimental satellites for internet service were successfully launched into orbit from California at dawn February 22, creating a brief light show as it arced over the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, reusing a 1st stage that had flown on a previous launch, lifted off at 6:17 am from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Californians were hoping for a repeat of the spectacle that occurred during a December 22 Falcon 9 launch during exceptionally clear twilight conditions, but this time the sky was much brighter, making the plume less brilliant.

The Falcon’s 1st stage was used to launch a satellite for Taiwan last August and was recovered by landing it on a drone ship in the Pacific. This time, there was no effort to recover the 1st stage and it fell into the sea.

SpaceX (SPX), however, was attempting to recover the fairing (the aerodynamic covering that protects the satellite during the early phase of launch and is usually discarded after reaching altitudes where the atmosphere’s density is low).

(SPX) Founder Elon Musk tweeted that the fairing system deployed a parafoil and there was an attempt to catch it during descent but that failed. He posted a photo of a ship with a net structure on the stern that he referred to as “a giant catcher’s mitt.”

“Missed by a few hundred meters, but fairing landed intact in water. Should be able catch it with slightly bigger chutes to slow down descent,” Musk tweeted. Recovering and reusing major pieces of rockets is 1 of Musk’s key strategies.

The rocket’s primary payload was a satellite named "PAZ" for Spanish satellite operator Hisdesat. It carries an advanced instrument for making radar images of Earth for government and commercial purposes, as well as sensors for tracking ships and weather.

The satellite was designed for a 5½-year mission, orbiting Earth 15x each day at an altitude of 514 km/319 miles, covering the entire planet every 24 hours. It joins 2 other radar satellites in the same orbit covering the same ground, increasing acquisition of data.

The rocket also deployed 2 small test satellites for a proposed system that would bring internet access to remote areas. The “Starlink” system would require thousands of satellites operating in low Earth orbit. Musk tweeted that the satellites were named Tintin A and B and were communicating with Earth stations.

“Tintin A & B will attempt to beam ‘hello world’ in about 22 hours when they pass near LA,” Musk added.

April 2018: "Space Calendar 2018: Launches, Sky Events & More
By SPACE.com Staff, April 24, 2018.

LAST UPDATED April 24: These dates are subject to change, and will be updated throughout the year as firmer dates arise. Please DO NOT schedule travel based on a date you see here. Launch dates collected from (NASA), (ESA), Roscosmos, Spaceflight Now and others.

Watch (NASA) webcasts and other live launch coverage on our Watch Live page, and see our night sky webcasts here. (You can also watch (NASA) TV live via nasa.gov or YouTube.)

Find out what's up in the night sky this month with our visible planets guide and skywatching forecast. Spot the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope and other satellites in the sky above with this satellite tracker.

April 2018:

April 25: A Eurockot Rockot vehicle will launch with the Sentinel 3B Earth observation satellite for the European Space Agency and the European Commission from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia at 1:57 pm EDT (1757 GMT).

April 25: (NASA) astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold will host an in-flight educational event at the International Space Station with the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Coral Gables, Florida. (NASA) TV will air the discussion live at 10:45 am EDT (1445 GMT).

April 26: A Chinese Long March 11 rocket will launch several Zhuhai 1 Earth-observing satellites from Jiuquan, China at 12:40 am EDT (0440 GMT).

April 26: (NASA) will hold a briefing on the status of its deep space human exploration plans at the Johnson Space Center in Houston at 10 am EDT (1400 GMT). [Watch Live].

Also slated to launch in April (from Spaceflight Now):

* A Rocket Lab Electron rocket will launch on its 3rd flight, titled "It's Business Time," from the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand's North Island. The launch window opens at 8:30 pm EDT on April 19 and closes at 12:30 am EDT on April 20 (0030 - 0430 GMT on April 20).

May 2018:

May 2: SpaceX (SPX)'s Dragon cargo spacecraft (CRS-14) will depart the International Space Station at 10:33 am EDT (1433 GMT) and return to Earth. (NASA) TV will provide live coverage of the Dragon's departure beginning at 10 am EDT (1400 GMT). [Watch Live]

May 4: A SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida with the Bangabandhu 1 communications satellite at 4:00-6:25 pm EDT (2000-2225 GMT). [Watch Live]

May 5: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch (NASA)'s InSight Mars lander from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 7:05 am EDT (1105 GMT). [Watch Live]

May 6: The Eta Aquarid meteor shower will peak early in the morning (before dawn) on Sunday, May 6. Meteors from this shower will be visible from mid-April to the end of May.

May 6: A Chinese Long March 3B rocket will launch the Apstar 6C communications satellite from Xichang, China.

May 16: (NASA) astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold will take a 6.5-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station. (NASA) TV will provide live coverage beginning at 6:30 am EDT (1030 GMT), and the spacewalkers are scheduled to exit the Quest airlock at approximately 8:10 am EDT (1210 GMT). [Watch Live]

May 19: (NASA) will launch its GRACE-FO (Follow-On) mission to track Earth's gravity and water movement. It is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as part of the Iridium Next 51-55 commercial satellite launch on a SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 at 4:03 pm EDT (2003 GMT). [Watch Live]

May 20: An Orbital (ATK) Antares rocket will launch a Cygnus cargo spacecraft (OA-9) to the International Space Station from Wallops Island, Virginia. [Watch Live]

May 24: A SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 rocket will launch the SES 12 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida. [Watch Live]

May 25: Arianespace will use an Ariane 5 ECA rocket to launch the Azerspace 2/Intelsat 38 and GSAT 11 communications satellites from Kourou, French Guiana at 4:41-5:55 pm EDT (2041-2155 GMT).

Also slated to launch in May (from Spaceflight Now):

* A Chinese Long March 4C rocket will launch a relay satellite toward the Earth-moon L2 Lagrange point to enable communications between Earth and the Chang'e 4 lunar lander and rover on the far side of the moon. 2 Chinese microsatellites will launch with the Chang'e 4 relay mission to conduct astronomical observations from deep space.

* June 2018:

June 1: Japan's Hayabusa 2 spacecraft will reach the asteroid Ryugu, where it will attempt to collect a sample and return it to Earth in 2020.

June 1: Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 55 Cmdr. Anton Shkaplerov will hand over command of the International Space Station to (NASA) astronaut Drew Feustel in a traditional change-of-command ceremony (time (TBD)).

June 3: (NASA) astronaut Scott Tingle, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Norishege Kanai will undock their Soyuz spacecraft from the International Space Station and return to Earth after spending nearly 6 months in space. They'll close the hatch at 1:59 am EDT (0559 GMT) and undock from the ISS at 5:16 am EDT (0916 GMT). The Soyuz spacecraft will perform a deorbit burn at 7:45 am EDT (1145 GMT), and the crew will touch down in Kazakhstan at 8:38 am EDT (1238 GMT). [Watch Live]

June 6: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch a crewed Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with members of Expedition 56/57: European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, (NASA) astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopev. Liftoff is scheduled for 7:11 am EDT (1111 GMT), and the crew will arrive at the ISS on June 8. [Watch Live]

June 8: The crew of Expedition 56/57 will arrive at the International Space Station after a 2-day orbital chase. Their Soyuz spacecraft will dock at the ISS at 9:05 am EDT (1305 GMT). Hatch opening is scheduled for 10:45 am EDT (1445 GMT). [Watch Live]

June 11: A Japanese H-2A rocket will launch an Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) with a radar reconnaissance payload from the Tanegashima Space Center. The 2-hour launch window opens at 12 pm EDT (0400 GMT).

June 13: An air-launched Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket will send (NASA)'s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite into orbit from Kwajalein, Marshall Islands.

June 21: Summer solstice. In the northern hemisphere, this is the 1st day of summer and the longest day of the year. In the southern hemisphere, June 21 is the winter solstice, or the 1st day of winter, and the shortest day of the year.

June 28: A SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Dragon cargo spacecraft (CRS-15) from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station. Liftoff is scheduled for 5 am EDT (0900 GMT). [Watch Live]

Also slated to launch in June (from Spaceflight Now):

* A SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Telstar 19V communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

* India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk 3 (GSLV Mk.3) will launch the (GSAT) 29 communications satellite from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India.

* A Chinese Long March 3A rocket will launch the Fengyun 2H geostationary weather satellite from Xichang, China.

* A Chinese Long March 2C rocket will launch the Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS 1) from Taiyuan, China.

* August 2018:

Aug. 11: A partial solar eclipse will be visible from parts of Europe, Asia, Canada, Greenland, the Atlantic and the Arctic. [Solar Eclipse Guide 2018: When, Where & How to See Them]

Aug. 13: The Perseid meteor shower will peak before dawn in the early morning hours of Monday, Aug. 13.

Aug. 16: A Japanese H-2B rocket will launch the seventh H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) from the Tanegashima Space Center. The uncrewed cargo vehicle will deliver equipment and supplies to the International Space Station.

Aug. 21: An Arianespace Vega rocket will launch from Kourou, French Guiana with the European Space Agency's Aeolus wind-mapping satellite.

Aug. 27: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch Boeing's 1st CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on an unpiloted Orbital Test Flight to the International Space Station. The capsule will dock with the space station, then return to Earth to landing in the Western United States after an orbital shakedown cruise ahead of a 2-person Crew Test Flight (which could happen in 2019).

Also slated to launch in August (from Spaceflight Now):

* SpaceX (SPX) will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center in Florida for an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station.

* A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch 10 Iridium Next satellites (66-75) from Vandenberg Air Foce Base in California.

* November 2018:

Nov. 1: A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket will launch the 10th Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft, formerly known as the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite.

Nov. 10: An Orbital (ATK) Antares rocket will launch a Cygnus cargo spacecraft from Wallops Island, Virginia for a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station.

Nov. 15: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch a crewed Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station with members of the next Expedition crew.

Nov. 16: A SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Dragon cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida for a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station.

Also slated to launch in November (from Spaceflight Now):

* An Arianespace Vega rocket will launch the Italian space agency's PRISMA satellite from Kourou, French Guiana.

Also coming in 2018...

* A SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Telkom 4 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

* A SpaceX (SPX) Falcon Heavy rocket will launch the Arabsat 6A communications satellite from Kennedy Space Center's historic Pad 39A.

* A SpaceX (SPX) Falcon 9 rocket will launch 10 Iridium Next satellites (56-65) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

* A Chinese Long March 3B rocket will launch the Chang'e 4 mission to attempt the first robotic landing on the far side of the moon.

* A Chinese Long March 5 rocket will launch the Chang'e 5 mission to return samples from the moon. It will be the 1st lunar sample return mission attempted since 1976.

* A Chinese Long March 2C rocket will launch the China - France Oceanography Satellite, or CFOSat from Jiuquan, China. CFOSat will study ocean surface winds and waves.

Please send any corrections, updates or suggested calendar additions to hweitering@space.com. Follow Space.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

August 2018: News Item A-1: "(NASA) Trained and Boeing Employed: Chris Ferguson Hopes to Make History as a Company Astronaut" Seattle Times, August 5, 2018.

One small detail sets Chris Ferguson apart from the (NASA) astronauts he is training alongside. Where they have the space agency's red-white-and-blue logo on their spacesuits, he wears Boeing (TBC)'s corporate insignia as a test pilot of the inaugural flight of its Starliner spacecraft. He still looks every bit the (NASA) astronaut he once was. Same chest-out posture. Same "Top Gun" instincts. Same American flag on the left shoulder of his flight suit. Chris Ferguson even has a call sign, “Fergy.”

There is 1 small detail that sets Ferguson apart from the (NASA) astronauts he is training alongside. Where they have the space agency’s red-white-and-blue logo on their spacesuits, he wears Boeing’s corporate insignia (a small accessory that symbolizes what the space agency hopes is a new era in space travel). Ferguson retired from NASA after serving as the commander of the last space shuttle mission in 2011. Today, he’s a corporate astronaut who is hoping to make history as the 1st private citizen to launch to orbit on a commercially operated rocket.

(NASA) has been unable to fly people from USA soil since the shuttle was retired. Since then, its astronauts have flown to the space station on Russian rockets from a Soviet-era launch site in Kazakhstan. In 2014, (NASA) awarded contracts worth a combined $6.8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX (SPX) to develop spacecraft that would finally restore human spaceflight from the Florida Space Coast. The space agency, which has wanted to fly ordinary people since the early days of the space shuttle, hopes that by hiring the companies to provide a sort of taxi service to the space station they would also carry all sorts of passengers to orbit.

“We wanted to basically enable a new market,” said Phil McAlister, the Director of (NASA)’s commercial spaceflight division. “We wanted these companies to have the ability to sell their services to nongovernmental customers.”

That is also SpaceX’ (SPX)s goal. “Human spaceflight is the core mission of our company (to help create a future where millions of people are out exploring the stars and living on other planets,” Gwynne Shotwell, (SPX)’s President & Chief Operating Officer, said.

News Item A2: "The Future of Air Travel" by Canice Leung, Reuters, August 18, 2018.


September 2018: SpaceX (CEO) signed up Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaka Maezawa as 1st moon rocket passenger - see photo.


Click below for photos:

October 2018:



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