SpaceX Launches 106 Starlink Satellites with Launches from California, Florida

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on May 14, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX launched 106 Starlink broadband satellites in a pair of launches conducted less than 24 hours apart from launch complexes in California and Florida.

On Friday, May 13, a Falcon 9 launched 53 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The first stage booster, which landed on an offshore drone ship, previously launched Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, DART, and two Starlink missions.

On Saturday, Falcon 9 launched 53 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The flight involved the rare launch of a new Falcon 9 rocket. The first stage landed on an off-shore drone ship.

SpaceX has launched 2,600 Starlink satellites, which provide low-latency broadband service around the globe. Starlink is now available in 32 countries.

U.S. Commits to Not Conduct Direct-ascent Anti-satellite Tests

Vice President Kamala Harris delivers opening remarks at the first meeting of the National Space Council, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington. Chaired by Vice President Harris, the council’s role is to advise the President regarding national space policy and strategy, and ensuring the United States capitalizes on the opportunities presented by the country’s space activities. (Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

New U.S. Commitment on Destructive Direct-Ascent Anti-Satellite Missile Testing

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (White House PR) — Today at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the United States commits not to conduct destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing, and that the United States seeks to establish this as a new international norm for responsible behavior in space. The Vice President also called on other nations to make similar commitments and to work together in establishing this as a norm, making the case that such efforts benefit all nations. 

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches NROL-85 Mission From Vandenberg

Falcon 9 launches the NROL-85 mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Credit: NRO)

CHANTILLY, Va. (NRO PR) — The National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched the NROL-85 mission aboard a reflown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4E located at Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB) in California today at 6:13 a.m. Pacific Time. The Falcon 9 reusable rocket booster returned safely to Landing Zone 4 after delivering the national security payload to orbit.

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Third Time a Charm? SpaceX Will Try Launching NROL-85 on Easter Sunday From Windy Vandy

Falcon 9 with the NROL-85 payload on the launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I recently spent a week housesitting down in LA where the temperatures reached into the 90’s. When I arrived back home to Mojave on Monday night, I found that spring had turned back into winter in the High Desert: overnight temps a few degrees above freezing, 50 mph wind gusts, chilly temperatures during the day. Although the temperatures have risen over the last few days, the wind has been pretty relentless all week.

So, it’s little wonder they’re having the same issues with wind over at Vandenberg Space Force Base to the west of here. The winds forced SpaceX to twice scrub the launch of the NROL-85 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office on Friday and Saturday.

Elon Musk’s company is set to try again on Easter Sunday. Falcon 9 has an instantaneous launch window at 6:13 a.m. PDT from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E).

If I’m awake, I’ll go outside and see if I can see the launch. Although nighttime launches are spectacular out here, they’re more difficult to see in daylight. It will probably be a distant contrail at best.

For everyone else, you can watch the live launch webcast starting about 15 minutes before liftoff. 

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission previously launched the NROL-87 mission in February 2022. Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage will return and land on Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Suspends SpaceX’s Application to Expand Boca Chica Launch Facility

The purple line surrounds parts of SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility that has been developed. Additional facilities would be added below that area. The dotted line delineates SpaceX’s property line. The orange areas are unvegetated salt flats. The green areas are high marsh areas. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Elon Musk’s controversial plan to launch SpaceX’s Super Heavy/Starship system from Boca Chica, Texas has hit another snag as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended review of the company’s application for an expansion of its Starbase spaceport. The reason: SpaceX’s failure to provide additional information requested from the company on May 21, 2021. The application can be revived if SpaceX provides the requested information.

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U.S. Air Force Announces Candidate Locations for STARCOM HQ, Deltas

The Department of the Air Force will begin site surveys in late April or early May 2022 to determine the location that is best suited to host the U.S. Space Force’s Space Training and Readiness Command Headquarters. The assessment will be based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support, environmental considerations and cost. (Credit: U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Department of the Air Force selected six candidate locations for U.S. Space Force’s Space Training and Readiness Command Headquarters, April 4.

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SpaceX Launches 50 Starlink Satellites From Vandenberg

Falcon 9 lifts off with 50 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — On Friday, February 25 at 9:12 a.m. PST, SpaceX launched 50 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

This was the fourth flight for the Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously supported Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, DART and one Starlink mission.

NASA Asteroid Tracking System Now Capable of Full Sky Search

From left to right: Sutherland ATLAS station during construction in South Africa. Credit: Willie Koorts (SAAO); Chilean engineers and astronomers installing the ATLAS telescope at El Sauce Observatory. Credit: University of Hawaii; Illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) LICIACube prior to impact at the Didymos binary system. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins, APL/Steve Gribben; Illustration of the NEO Surveyor spacecraft.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS)—a state-of-the-art asteroid detection system operated by the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) Institute for Astronomy (IfA) for the agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO)—has reached a new milestone by becoming the first survey capable of searching the entire dark sky every 24 hours for near-Earth objects (NEOs) that could pose a future impact hazard to Earth. Now comprised of four telescopes, ATLAS has expanded its reach to the southern hemisphere from the two existing northern-hemisphere telescopes on Haleakalā and Maunaloa in Hawai’i to include two additional observatories in South Africa and Chile. 

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NRO Celebrates First Launch of 2022 and First SpaceX Falcon 9 National Security Launch with NROL-87

Falcon 9 launches the NROL-87 mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

CHANTILLY, Va., February 2, 2022 (NRO PR) — The National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched the NROL-87 mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4E located at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 12:27 p.m. PST. NROL-87 is the 60th launch since NRO began publicly disclosing launches in December 1996.

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SpaceX Plans Launch Double Header on Wednesday

Falcon 9 launches the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is planning launches from opposite coasts within two hours of each other on Wednesday.

A Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch the NROL-87 satellite from Vandenberg Space Force in California at 3:18 p.m. EST (12:18 p.m. PST/2018 GMT). The launch is for the National Reconnaissance Office.

A Falcon 9 will launch another batch of Starlink broadband satellites from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:51 p.m. EST (2151 GMT).

It will be the second and third SpaceX launches in two days. A Falcon 9 launched the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation satellite from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Monday evening. SpaceX is aiming to launch a record 52 times this year.

SpaceX will webcast both launches beginning 15 minutes before takeoff at www.spacex.com.

Florida Legislators Eye Tax Free Launches, State Subsidy for New Launch Complex

Falcon 9 launches 49 Starlink satellites from Florida. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Faced with increased competition from Texas, Georgia and other states, Florida legislators are eyeing new ways to keep companies launching from the Sunshine State. Florida Politics reports:

Zero G Zero Fee’ bills would create tax exemptions for anything launched into space from Florida.

What if a company could launch a rocket into space from Florida and pay no sales tax on the rocket, its payload, its fuel or even the concrete, steel and equipment needed to create the launch pad?

That would be the reality if lawmakers this Session approve legislation from Sen. Tom Wright and Rep. Tyler Sirois (SB 1466HB 65)…

At the same time, Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando has introduced HB 9233, which would provide a $10 million appropriation for Florida to build a new multiuser launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Space Florida, the state’s space business development agency, has talked about the need for a launch pad that could be leased on a per-launch basis by companies that don’t have their own launch facilities, as SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and others do.

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Firefly Aerospace Halts Launch Activities at Vandenberg as Majority Owner Polyakov Forced to Sell Stake in Company

Bloomberg reports that Firefly Aerospace has stopped preparations for the second launch of its Alpha booster due to a decision by the U.S. government to force the company’s majority owner, Ukrainian entrepreneur, Max Polyakov to sell his majority stake in the company.

Government and aerospace industry officials have expressed objections to Polyakov’s control of the company amid fears that valuable technology could make its way to Ukraine, Russia or other nations trying to develop rocket programs. Despite putting more than $200 million of his fortune into Firefly, Polyakov agreed to step down from the company’s board and Firefly’s day-to-day activities in late 2020 to help make it easier for the company to win U.S. government and military contracts and ease some of the underlying tensions. 

In late November, however, Polyakov received a letter from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS, that called out national security worries and requested that Polyakov and his investment firm Noosphere Venture Partners sell off their roughly 50% stake in Firefly. Polyakov agreed to this demand, according to his spokespeople, while maintaining that his ownership of Firefly poses no national security threats. “Noosphere Ventures announced today that it intends to retain an investment banking firm to assist in the sale of Noosphere Ventures’ ownership interest in Firefly Aerospace,” Polyakov’s company said in a statement. 

While educated as an obstetrician-gynecologist, Polyakov made his fortune through business software ventures and internet gaming, dating and marketing sites. He rescued Firefly from bankruptcy in 2017 and poured money into the company to revitalize it. In September, Firefly conducted its first rocket launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Southern California. The rocket didn’t reach orbit but performed well for an initial launch, and the company has been racing to fire up a second one.

The U.S. government halted Firefly’s current rocket launch operations at Vandenberg as the ownership issue with Polyakov plays out, according to two people familiar with the situation. The clashes between Polyakov and the U.S. haven’t been previously reported.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Orbits Turksat 5B Satellite for Second Launch in One Day

Falcon 9 lifts off with Turksat 5B on Dec. 18, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. — On Saturday, December 18 at 10:58 p.m. EST, Falcon 9 launched the Turksat 5B mission to geostationary transfer orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

This was the third launch and landing of this booster, which previously supported launch of CRS-22 and Crew-3.

It was the second SpaceX launch on Saturday. At 7:41 a.m. EST, a Falcon 9 launched 52 Starlink broadband satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

It was the 11th launch and landing of a Falcon 9 first-stage booster, a new record for the company. The booster has launched Dragon’s first crew demonstration mission, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, SXM-7, and now 8 Starlink missions.

SpaceX is scheduled to conduct its 31st and final launch of the year on Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 5:06 a.m. EST. A Falcon 9 will launch a Dragon 2 cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It will be the 24th mission under SpaceX’s Commercial Resupply Services contract and the Dragon capsule’s fourth flight to the station.

The forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of favorable weather for the launch.

NASA To Launch 4 Earth Science Missions in 2022

An illustration of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). JPSS is a collaborative program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. JPSS-2 is NOAA’s next-generation operational Earth observation program that acquires and distributes global environmental data primarily from multiple polar-orbiting satellites. (Credits: Orbital ATK/Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems)

By Alison Gold
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA will launch four Earth science missions in 2022 to provide scientists with more information about fundamental climate systems and processes including extreme storms, surface water and oceans, and atmospheric dust. Scientists will discuss the upcoming missions at the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) 2021 Fall Meeting, hosted in New Orleans between Dec. 13 and 17.

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NASA Goddard Helps Ensure Asteroid Deflector Hits Target, Predicts and Will Observe Impact Results

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft at Didymos. (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Although the chance of an asteroid impacting Earth is small, even a relatively small asteroid of about 500 feet (about 150 meters) across carries enough energy to cause widespread damage around the impact site. NASA leads efforts in the U.S. and worldwide both to detect and track potentially hazardous asteroids and to study technologies to mitigate or avoid impacts on Earth. If an asteroid were discovered and determined to be on a collision course with Earth, one response could be to launch a “kinetic impactor” – a high-velocity spacecraft that would deflect the asteroid by ramming into it, altering the asteroid’s orbit slightly so that it misses Earth. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will be the first mission to demonstrate asteroid deflection using a kinetic impactor. 

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