Falcon 9 Orbits Iridium-NEXT, GRACE-FO Satellites

The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday afternoon and successfully orbited seven satellites.

There were five Iridium-NEXT communications satellites aboard. These were the 51st through 56th Iridium-NEXT spacecraft orbited by Falcon 9 boosters.

A pair of Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellites were also onboard. The spacecraft will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself.

The mission is a join collaboration of NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ).  GFZ reports receiving signals from both GRACE-FO satellites.

Three Launches Scheduled Over Two Days Next Week

ISS with Soyuz and Progress spacecraft docked to it. (Credit: NASA)

There are a dozen orbital launches planned around the world through the end of June.

China will lead off on Sunday as it launches its Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite from Xichang. A lunar lander and rover targeted for the far side of the moon is scheduled for launch at the end of the year.

Orbital ATK will follow with the launch of a Cygnus resupply ship bound for the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday from Wallops Island. On Tuesday, SpaceX is scheduled to launch 5 Iridium Next satellites and a pair of scientific spacecraft for NASA.

Other notable missions scheduled through June include a Soyuz crew mission and a SpaceX Dragon resupply flight. Rocket Lab is probably going to launch the first commercial flight of its Electron booster from New Zealand. However, the company has not published a launch window for the flight.

The current global schedule is below. Be sure to check Space Flight Now’s launch schedule for updates.

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Updated Global Launch Schedule for May

Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)

There are some interesting launches among the nine orbital flights currently scheduled for May. Highlights include:

  • NASA’s Mars InSight lander with two deep-space CubeSats (May 5);
  • SpaceX’s first flight of a Falcon 9 Block 5 variant (NET May 7);
  • Two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE Follow-On) satellites (May 19);
  • Orbital ATK’s Antares Cygnus ISS resupply mission (May 20);
  • China’s Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite with two deep-space microsats (TBD); and,
  • Rocket Lab’s first Electron commercial flight (TBD).

There have been 40 orbital launches through April, with 38 successes, one failure and one partial failure.

The schedule below is subject to change. Please check with our friends at Spaceflight Now for updates.
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Iridium Announces Target Launch Date for the Iridium-6/GRACE-FO Mission

Iridium NEXT spacecraft (Credit: Iridium)

MCLEAN, Va., April 09, 2018 (Iridium PR) — Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:IRDM) announced today that the Iridium-6/GRACE-FO rideshare mission, the sixth Iridium® NEXT launch overall, has been targeted for launch by SpaceX from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California for May 19, 2018 at approximately 1:03 PM PDT (20:03 UTC). An exact instantaneous launch window time will be available closer to launch.

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SpaceX Launches 10 Iridium Next Satellites

Falcon 9 lifts off with Iridium Next 41-50 satellites. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX successfully launched 10 Iridium Next satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday morning.

Iridium-NEXT satellites 41-50 were successfully deployed from the booster’s second stage about an hour after the launch at 7:13 a.m. PDT. It was the fifth batch of 10 Iridium-NEXT satellites that SpaceX has orbited using three different first stage boosters.

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Updated Global Launch Schedule Through April

Expedition 55 crew members Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. (Credit: NASA)

Below is the updated launch schedule through the end of April. The 17 scheduled launches include:

  • 7 USA (6 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • 4 Russia (1 Soyuz, 1 Soyuz-2.1, 1 Proton, 1 Rockot)
  • 3 India (2 GSLV Mk.2, 1 PSLV)
  • 2 China (2 Long March 3B)
  • 1 Europe (1 Ariane 5).

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Scheduled Launches for March

Atlas V booster launches the GOES-S weather satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Below is the current launch schedule for March. In total, there are 8 launches planned for the month with 16 communications satellites, one meteorological satellite, and one crew mission to the International Space Station. The launches include:

  • United States: 3 (2 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • Russia: 2 (Soyuz from Baikonur & French Guiana)
  • Europe: 1 (Ariane 5)
  • China: 1 (Long March 3B)
  • India: 1 (GSLV Mk. 2)

This schedule is subject to change. Please visit https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/ for updates.

March 1

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: GOES-S meteorological satellite
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Outcome: Successful

March 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite
Launch Window: 12:33-2:33 a.m. EST (0533-0733 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: O3b F4 communications satellite
Launch Time: 11:38:36 a.m. EST (1638:36 GMT)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana

March 15

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Apstar 6C communications satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

March 21

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Soyuz MS-08
Launch Time: 1:44 p.m. EDT (1744 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

NASA astronauts A.J. (Drew) Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will travel to the International Space Station.

Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payload: Superbird 8/DSN 1 & Hylas 4 communications satellites
Launch Time: 5:42 p.m. EDT (2142 GMT)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana

March 24

Launch Vehicles: GSLV Mk.2
Payl0ad: GSAT 6A communications satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

March 29

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Iridium Next 41-50 communications satellites
Launch Time: 10:19:49 a.m. EDT; 7:19:49 a.m. PDT (1419:49 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Falcon Heavy Debut Slips to January

Artist’s conception of a Falcon Heavy launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has slipped the maiden flight of its Falcon Heavy booster to January. The rocket, whose first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 cores with 27 engines, will lift off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.  The flight will be preceded by a hold-down test on the launch pad in which all 27 first stage engines will be fired.

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Iridium to Use Flight Proven Falcon 9 First Stages for Next Two Launches

The SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster is seen as it lands shortly after launching the Dragon spacecraft from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Saturday, June 3, 2017. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

MCLEAN, Va., Oct. 19, 2017 (Iridium Communications PR) — Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:IRDM) announced today that the fourth Iridium NEXT launch has been targeted by SpaceX for December 22, 2017 at 5:26 p.m. PT [1:26 a.m. UTC on Dec. 23], from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

This launch signifies the mid-way point of the Iridium NEXT launch program and will deliver another 10 satellites to orbit, bringing the total number deployed to 40. Targeted for just over two months after the third Iridium NEXT launch, this December date enables Iridium to maintain its planned cadence of completing all launches by mid-2018, even with SpaceX’s busy launch manifest.

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Operation Zuma: SpaceX to Launch Mystery Payload

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

Federal regulatory filings indicate SpaceX plans to launch a mysterious payload as early as Nov. 10 in a previously-undisclosed mission.

It is unusual for such a mission to remain secret so close to launch, and there has been no public claim of ownership for the payload — codenamed Zuma — from any government or commercial institution.

SpaceX did not respond to questions on the mission Saturday, but an application submitted by the launch company to the Federal Communications Commission says the flight will use a Falcon 9 booster launched from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The existence of the mission was first reported on NASASpaceflight.com Saturday, but the FCC filings are public record….

Two filings concern the secretive launch next month, one for the Falcon 9’s liftoff and climb into orbit from Florida’s Space Coast, and another for the first stage booster’s planned return to Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for refurbishment and reuse.

SpaceX has successfully launched Falcon 9 a total of 15 times in 2017. Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule shows that SpaceX has five more flights scheduled for this year, not including the Zuma mission. Below is the schedule with the Zuma flight included.

Remaining SpaceX Launches for 2017

10/30/17: Falcon 9 — Koreasat 5A — KSC
11/10/17: Falcon 9 — Zuma — KSC
Late November: Falcon 9 — Iridum Next 31-40 — Vandenberg
11/28/17: Falcon 9 — CRS-13 — CCAFS
4th Quarter: Falcon 9 — Hispasat 30W-6 — CCAFS
Late 2017: Falcon Heavy Demo Flight — KSC

Launch Crews 3-for-3 Today

Falcon 9 launch

Launch crews in the United States, China and Japan are celebrating successful flights to start a busy launch week.

China got things started by launching the Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite aboard a Long March 2D rocket from Jiuquan.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 followed up with an early morning launch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The flight included the 17th successful landing of a Falcon 9 first stage.

The Japanese successfully launched the Michibiki 4 navigation satellite from the Tanegashima Space Center.

Below is the launch schedule for the rest of the month. It is possible that an Atlas V that had been scheduled to launch a national reconnaissance satellite last week will be added to the schedule for later this month. The launch was delayed twice due to weather and the third time because of a faulty telemetry transmitter. ULA has not set a new launch date.

October 11

Falcon 9
Payload: SES 11/EchoStar 105 communications satellite
Launch window: 6:53-8:53 p.m. EDT (2253-0053 GMT)
Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

October 12

Soyuz
Payload: Progress 68P resupply ship
Launch time: 5:32 a.m. EDT (0932 GMT)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

October 13

Rockot
Payload: Sentinel 5p Earth observation satellite
Launch time: 5:27 a.m. EDT (0927 GMT)
Launch site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

October 17

Minotaur-C
Payload: 6 SkySat Earth observation satellites
Launch time: 5:37 p.m. EDT; 2:37 p.m. PDT (2137 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-576E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

October 30

Falcon 9
Payload: Koreasat 5A communications satellite
Launch window: 3:34-5:58 p.m. EDT (1934-2158 GMT)
Launch site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

SpaceX Plans Two Launches in Two Days

The Autonomous Flight Safety System first flew from the Eastern Range on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 CRS-10 Feb. 19, 2017. The use of AFSS reduces range space lift costs through reductions in range equipment maintenance and upgrades. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has planned two Falcon 9 launches this weekend, one from each coast.

A Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch the BulgariaSat 1 communications satellite from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida today. The two-hour launch window opens at 2:10 p.m. EDT. The flight marks the second reuse of a first stage.

The second Falcon 9 flight is scheduled for Sunday at 4:25 p.m. EDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The booster will launch 10 Iridium Next satellites.

SpaceX will webcast both flights at www.spacex.com.

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Falcon 9 Launch of Iridium Satellites Slips Two Months

MCLEAN, Va., Feb. 15, 2017 (Iridium PR) — Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq:IRDM) announced it has received a targeted launch date of mid-June for the second mission of ten Iridium NEXT satellites.  Originally anticipated for mid-April of 2017, the date has shifted due to a backlog in SpaceX’s launch manifest as a result of last year’s September 1st anomaly.  This second launch will deliver another ten Iridium NEXT satellites to low-Earth-orbit (LEO) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.  SpaceX is targeting six subsequent Iridium NEXT launches approximately every two months thereafter.

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SpaceX Return to Flight Set for Saturday

spacex_iridium1_patchHAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will deliver 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit for Iridium, a global leader in mobile voice and data satellite communications. The 10 satellites are the first of at least 70 satellites that SpaceX will be launching for Iridium’s next generation global satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT.

SpaceX is targeting launch of Iridium-1 from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The instantaneous launch window opens on January 14 at 9:54:39 am PST or 5:54:39 pm UTC. The satellites will begin deployment about an hour after launch.

The webcast is available here.

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