NASA Awards Launch Services Contract to SpaceX for SPHEREx Astrophysics Mission

This animation shows the preliminary design for the spacecraft, including hexagonal sun shields that will help keep the instruments cool. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission. SPHEREx is a planned two-year astrophysics mission to survey the sky in the near-infrared light, which, though not visible to the human eye, serves as a powerful tool for answering cosmic questions involving the birth of the universe, and the subsequent development of galaxies.

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Colorado Congressional Delegation Wants Biden to Suspend U.S. Space Command Move to Huntsville

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Colorado’s nine-member Congressional delegation has asked President Joe Biden to suspend the move of the U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Ala., until the administration conducts a full review of a decision made during the waning days of the Trump Administration.

“This move undermines our ability to respond to the threats in space and is disruptive to the current mission. Additionally, significant evidence exists that the process was neither fair nor impartial and that President [Donald] Trump’s political considerations influenced the final decision,” the delegation said in a Jan. 26 letter to the president.

The U.S. Air Force announced the move of the U.S. Space Command from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville on Jan. 13, one week before Trump left office and a week after Congress certified the election of Democrat Joe Biden.

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The Good, the Bad and the Brexit: UK’s Participation in European Space Programs Curtailed by EU Departure

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Although the United Kingdom’s (UK) “Brexit” departure from the European Union (EU) on Jan. 1 will not affect its membership status in the European Space Agency (ESA), the nation’s participation in a number of European space programs is either ending or being curtailed.

On Christmas Eve, the UK and EU announced an agreement in principle that will govern trade, security and political relations after Brexit. Under the agreement, the UK’s participation in the:

  • Galileo satellite navigation and European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) program will end;
  • Copernicus Earth observation satellite program will continue, contingent upon a further agreement to be worked out next year; and
  • EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EUSST) program will end, although the Britain will continue to receive data as a non-EU country.
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NASA, US, European Partner Satellite Returns First Sea Level Measurements

The data in this graphic are the first sea surface height measurements from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich (S6MF) satellite, which launched Nov. 21, 2020. They show the ocean off the southern tip of Africa, with red colors indicating higher sea level relative to blue areas, which are lower. (Credits: EUMETSAT)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, a joint U.S.-European satellite built to measure global sea surface height, has sent back its first measurements of sea level. The data provide information on sea surface height, wave height, and wind speed off the southern tip of Africa.

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Space Florida Reaches Milestone on Redevelopment of Space Launch Complex 20, Signs Lease with Firefly

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (Space Florida PR) — As Space Florida continues re-development of Space Launch Complex 20 (SLC-20) at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport as a multi-pad commercial launch site and home to Firefly Aerospace’s east coast launch operations, a significant milestone was reached in October with Space Florida’s completion of an Environmental Assessment encompassing modernization of facilities and high-cadence launch operations from the site.

Completion of this critical environmental review enables Firefly’s continued development and future operations at SLC-20, while ensuring that such activities pose no significant impact to the treasured natural assets of the spaceport.

Additionally, in October, Space Florida’s Board of Directors authorized Space Florida to enter long-term lease agreements for the site with the 45th Space Wing and Firefly, marking another important milestone in the ongoing transformation of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport into a hub for commercial space operations.

Space Florida would further like to congratulate Firefly on completion of acceptance testing and delivery of the first Alpha launch vehicle to Vandenberg AFB in preparation for the company’s initial launch.

We look forward to a successful mission as Firefly emerges as a leader in the small launch market, and continues preparation of both the SLC-20 launch site and the company’s new high-volume automated rocket factory in Space Florida’s Exploration Park at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Of Rockets, Sand and Oceans: A Trip to Vandenberg

The top of a Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Greetings from Lompoc.

Ken Brown and I drove over from Mojave today for the Falcon 9 launch of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite on Saturday morning. Launch is scheduled for 9:17 a.m. PST. As always, your local time may vary. You can catch all the action on NASA TV.

The European environmental satellite, which NASA and NOAA are supporting, will study the oceans. That’s something we saw a good bit of today.

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Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Satellite Set to Launch on Saturday From Vandenberg

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite undergoes final preparations in a clean room at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for an early November launch. (Credits: ESA/Bill Simpson)

The newest satellite to monitor global sea level is ready for its journey into space. Here’s what to expect.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, the latest in a series of spacecraft designed to monitor our oceans, is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. The satellite will be followed in 2025 by its twin, Sentinel-6B. Together, the pair is tasked with extending our nearly 30-year-long record of global sea surface height measurements. Instruments aboard the satellites will also provide atmospheric data that will improve weather forecasts, climate models, and hurricane tracking.

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NASA Targets Crew-1 Launch for Nov. 14

SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 7:49 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 14, for the launch of the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Managers of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will hold a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Oct. 28, to discuss the upcoming launch, including results from recent testing of the Falcon 9 Merlin engines following unexpected data SpaceX noted during a recent non-NASA launch. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency’s website.

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Crew-1 Launch Targeted for Mid-November, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Remains on Schedule

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 crew members are seen seated in the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during crew equipment interface training. From left to right are NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, mission specialist; Victor Glover, pilot; and Mike Hopkins, Crew Dragon commander; and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, mission specialist. (Credit: SpaceX)

NASA Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Kathy Lueders gave a Twitter update on the progress SpaceX is making in dealing with an anomaly during a recent launch. Her tweets are below.

We are making a lot of good progress with @SpaceX on engine testing to better understand the unexpected behavior observed during a recent non-NASA launch.

It’s too early to report findings at this point, as @SpaceX continues testing to validate what’s believed to be the most credible cause.

Based on our current analysis, @SpaceX is replacing one Merlin engine on the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launch vehicle and one engine for Crew-1 rocket that displayed similar early-start behavior during testing.

We are still targeting the Sentinel-6 launch for Nov. 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base as we expect to complete forward work in time.

We are also still working towards a mid-November launch for Crew-1. We will want a few days between Sentinel-6 and Crew-1 to complete data reviews and check performance. Most importantly, we will fly all our missions when we are ready.

Crew-1 mission will be the first commercial flight of the Crew Dragon vehicle to the International Space Station.

Firefly Aerospace Announces New Customer Agreements, Completes Stage 1 Acceptance Testing Ahead of First Alpha Launch

CEDAR PARK, Texas, Oct. 20, 2020 (Firefly Aerospace PR) — Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced the successful acceptance test of the first stage of its Alpha launch vehicle for its inaugural flight later this year, and the execution of new customer agreements.

Firefly has signed a Launch Services Agreement (LSA) with Spire Global (Spire) for the launch of Lemur spacecraft on the Alpha launch vehicle. The LSA will provide for the launch of Spire spacecraft on multiple Alpha missions over the contract period. Firefly has also executed an LSA with Geometric Space Corporation for the full payload capacity of an Alpha launch vehicle.

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U.S.-European Sea Level Satellite Gears Up for Launch

This animation shows the radar pulse from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite’s altimeter bouncing off the sea surface in order to measure the height of the ocean. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft will soon be heading into orbit to monitor the height of the ocean for nearly the entire globe.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Preparations are ramping up for the Nov. 10 launch of the world’s latest sea level satellite. Since arriving in a giant cargo plane at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California last month, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich has been undergoing final checks, including visual inspections, to make sure it’s fit to head into orbit.

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Crew-1 Launch Postponed Due to Falcon 9 Launch Anomaly

SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station is now targeted for no sooner than early-to-mid November, providing additional time for SpaceX to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt. Through the agency’s Commercial Crew and Launch Services Programs partnership with SpaceX, NASA has full insight into the company’s launch and testing data.

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5 Things to Know About Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich

Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will map up to 95% of Earth’s ice-free ocean every 10 days in order to monitor sea level variability. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

Set for launch in November, the Earth-observing satellite will closely monitor sea level and provide atmospheric data to support weather forecasting and climate models.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — On Nov. 10, the world’s latest Earth-observing satellite will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. As a historic U.S.-European partnership, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft will begin a five-and-a-half-year prime mission to collect the most accurate data yet on global sea level and how our oceans are rising in response to climate change. The mission will also collect precise data of atmospheric temperature and humidity that will help improve weather forecasts and climate models.

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SpaceX, Boeing & Firefly File FCC Applications for Fall Flights

Starship hopper under construction at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has applied for a temporary Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license to fly its Starship prototype to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles) from its Boca Chica test site in Texas.

The approval would be valid for hops from Oct. 11, 2020 to April 11, 2021. Starship prototypes have flown to an altitude of 150 meters from Boca Chica.

Boeing has filed for a FCC license for its second Starliner orbital flight test. The application covers a six-month period from Nov. 1, 2020 to May 1, 2021.

The uncrewed Starliner test is a repeat of a flight that went awry last December. The spacecraft failed to dock with the space station due to software and communications problems.

Firefly Aerospace has filed for approval for the maiden flight of its Firefly Alpha booster from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The approval would be valid from Nov. 21, 2020 until May 21, 2021.

Apha is designed to loft 1 metric ton into low Earth orbit and 630 kg into a 500 km sun synchronous orbit at a dedicated mission cost of $15 million.

Upcoming Satellite Mission will Improve Hurricane Forecasts and Climate Science, NOAA Expert Says

Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will map up to 95% of Earth’s ice-free ocean every 10 days in order to monitor sea level variability. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — A new satellite designed to capture detailed measurements of sea-surface height and other ocean features is scheduled to launch in November 2020. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite will help provide enhanced hurricane intensity forecasts and improved information of Earth’s climate.

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