An international fleet of spacecraft will be launched in 2018 to explore the Moon, Mars, Mercury and the Sun. Two sample-return spacecraft will enter orbit around asteroids while a third spacecraft will be launched to search for asteroids that contain water that can be mined.
NASA will also launch its next exoplanet hunting spacecraft in March. And the space agency will ring in 2019 with the first ever flyby of a Kuiper Belt object.
And, oh yes, Elon Musk is launching his car in the direction of Mars. (more…)
SpaceX is set to close out the year with a night launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday. The The Falcon 9 booster with 10 Iridium Next communications satellite is set to take off at 5:27 p.m. PST. It will be the company’s 18th launch attempt of the year and the 29th for U.S. launch providers.
The SpaceX mission is one of six launches set for the rest of the rest of the year (see list below). If all flights go forward in the next 10 days, there will be a total of 91 orbital launches worldwide in 2017.
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 Payloads: Iridium Next 31-40 communications satellites Launch Time: 0127:23 GMT on 23rd (8:27:23 p.m. EST; 5:27:23 p.m. PST on 22nd) Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
SpaceX will not attempt to recover the Falcon 9 first stage on this flight.
Launch Vehicle: H-2A Payloads: GCOM-C & SLATS environmental satellites Launch Tme: 0126:22-0148:22 GMT on 23rd (8:26:22-8:48:22 p.m. EST on 22nd) Launch Site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D Payload: Unidentified military satellite Launch Time: Approx. 0400 GMT on 23rd (11:00 p.m. EST on 22nd) Launch Site: Jiuquan, China
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mandates the Department of Defense to undertaken a program to modernize the infrastructure and improve support services on the Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California. The measure, passed by Congress, awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.
“The program….shall include investments to improve operations at the Eastern and Western Ranges that may benefit all users, to enhance the overall capabilities of ranges, to improve safety, and to reduce the long-term costs of operations and maintenance,” the bill reads.
The act also includes measures to improve processes across both ranges to “minimize the burden on launch providers” and “improvements in transparency, flexibility, and, responsiveness for launch scheduling.”
The NDAA allows the DOD to consult with current and anticipated users of the two ranges and to pursue partnerships if appropriate. The DOD is given 120 days after enactment of the act to submit a report on planned improvements to congressional defense committees.
The commanders of the U.S. Air Force space wings that run the ranges have said they need more funding to maintain and upgrade aging infrastructure as they cope with a surge in commercial launches. The failure of Congress to pass budgets in time for the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 and automatic budgets mandated under sequestration have also hindered long-term planning, the commanders said.
The Eastern Range, which handles launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, was recently closed for two weeks to tackle 85 high-priority maintenance projects. The western range at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California uses radar systems that were built in the 1950’s.
America’s Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California are struggling to keep up with increasing demand from the nation’s booming commercial launch industry while dealing with budget uncertainties in Washington, U.S. Air Force officials said last week.
The Eastern Range has been dealing with a surge of flights this year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as SpaceX has increased its launch cadence. Elon Musk’s company and rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched 18 times from Florida thus far, with two more SpaceX flights on the schedule for later this month.
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.
Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 18, 2017 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket carrying the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) for NASA and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-2 on Nov. 18 at 1:47 a.m. PST. The JPSS program provides the nation’s next generation polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system, delivering key observations for the nation’s essential projects and services, including forecasting weather in advance and assessing environmental hazards.
UPDATE: SpaceX issued a statement late this afternoon: “We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer. Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date.”
SpaceX has rescheduled the launch of the mysterious Zuma payload for Friday, Nov. 17. The Falcon 9’s two-hour launch window opens at 10 p.m. EST at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
ULA has rescheduled the launch of the JPSS-1 weather satellite aboard a Delta II booster for Saturday, Nov. 18. The launch time is 1:47 a.m. PST (4:47 EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Below is the launch schedule for the rest of November.
Launch Vehicle: Long March 6 Payloads: 3 Jilin 1 Earth observation microsats Launch Site: Taiyuan, China Launch Time: Unknown
Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 14, 2017 (ULA PR) – The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta II carrying the JPSS-1 mission for NASA and NOAA was scrubbed today due to a red range and a late launch vehicle alarm. Due to the short window there was insufficient time to fully coordinate a resolution.
The launch is planned for Wednesday, Nov. 15, from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The launch time is 1:47 a.m. PST.
The Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1), the first in a new series of four highly advanced National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) polar-orbiting satellites, is now scheduled to launch on Tuesday, Nov. 14, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex 2 is targeted for 1:47 a.m. PST (4:47 a.m. EST). Launch coverage will begin on NASA Television and the agency’s website at 1:15 a.m. PST.
JPSS represents significant technological and scientific advancements in observations used for severe weather prediction and environmental monitoring. JPSS is a collaborative effort between NOAA and NASA. The JPSS system will help increase weather forecast accuracy from three to seven days.
NOAA’s National Weather Service uses JPSS data as critical input for numerical forecast models, providing the basis for mid-range forecasts. These forecasts enable emergency managers to make timely decisions to protect American lives and property, including early warnings and evacuations.
JPSS satellites circle the Earth from pole-to-pole and cross the equator 14 times daily–providing full global coverage twice a day. Polar satellites are considered the backbone of the global observing system.
By Bob Granath NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
NASA is preparing to launch the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, satellite on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide essential data for timely and accurate weather forecasts and for tracking environmental events such as forest fires and droughts.
“Negative telemetry at base,” a voice crackled over the radio.
It was the last thing anyone wanted to hear. Minutes earlier, an Orbital ATK Minotaur-C rocket had blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base carrying 10 Planet satellites had disappeared into a cloudy California sky. And now the stream of data from the booster had disappeared as well.
SpaceX and Orbital ATK are scheduled to conduct launches on opposite sides of the country on Monday and Tuesday.
SpaceX will start things off on Monday with the Falcon 9 launch of the Koreasat 5A communications satellite for KTsat. The flight will be conducted from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The launch window is 3:34–5:58 p.m. EDT (1934-2158 GMT). This will be SpaceX’s third launch in October and 16th launch in 2017.
An Orbital ATK Minotaur-C booster is set to launch six SkySat Earth observation satellites for Planet and several CubeSats on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2:37 p.m. PDT/2137 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Minotaur-C is an upgraded version of the Taurus satellite launcher.
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Sentinel-6A mission. Launch is currently targeted for November 2020, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
NASA also has selected United Launch Services LLC (ULS) of Centennial, Colorado, to provide launch services for the Landsat 9 mission. The mission is currently targeted for a contract launch date of June 2021, while protecting for the ability to launch as early as December 2020, on an Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
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.