SpaceX Ties Personal Best, Launches 18th Mission of 2018 With Qatari ComSat

Liftoff of the Es’hail 2 satellite from KSC pad 39A in Florida. Photo Credit: John Kraus / AmericaSpace.com

Less than four months since it successfully lofted the Telstar 19V communications satellite to orbit, a Block 5 Upgraded Falcon 9 first stage roared skyward from historic Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Aboard the booster—designated “B1047”, which is the third Block 5 to be reused in less than six months—was Qatar’s Es’hail-2 communications satellite, which includes the first amateur radio payload to voyage to geostationary orbit.

Liftoff occurred at 3:46 p.m. EST Thursday, right on the opening of a 103-minute “window”, and its success enabled SpaceX to tie its own “personal best” of 18 launches in a single calendar year. With today’s launch success, attention turns to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., where another Block 5 is being readied to fly on a never-before-attempted third mission on 19 November.

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'Follow Our Dreams': 20 Years Since Zarya Launched the International Space Station Era (Part 1)

Twenty years ago, this month, the grandest engineering endeavor in human history got underway with the dawn of the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, this month, a new era began. On 20 November 1998, a Russian Proton-K rocket—descendent of a family of heavylift boosters which had already launched a half-dozen Soviet space stations and numerous scientific and technological research modules into low-Earth orbit—blasted off from Site 81 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, laden with the first component of the International Space Station (ISS). Measuring 41 feet (12.5 meters) in length and 13.5 feet (4.1 meters) wide, the Zarya (“Dawn”) module would provide power, storage, propulsion and guidance for an infant station which, in time, would grow to become the largest artificial satellite ever launched into space and the grandest and most complex engineering accomplishment in human history.

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NASA's Lucy Mission to the Trojans Is a GO!

Artist’s concept of the Lucy mission at the Trojans near Jupiter. Image Credit: NASA/SwRI

NASA’s proposed mission to a group of primitive and still-unexplored asteroids has been given approval for further development – the Lucy mission will travel to the Trojans, a group of asteroids that share the same orbit as Jupiter. This region has never been visited before, so the mission will give scientists a chance to see some very ancient rocky bodies left over from the formation of the Solar System.

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Pegasus-XL Booster Primed to Launch ICON Ionospheric Research Mission, NET Wednesday

The Pegasus-XL booster sits beneath the fuselage of the L-1011 Stargazer on the Skid Strip, ahead of the ICON mission. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

Five months later than intended, a Pegasus-XL winged booster—flying, for the first time, under the auspices of Northrop Grumman Corp., following the latter’s recent acquisition of Orbital ATK—will deliver NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) into low-Earth orbit on Wednesday, 7 November. From a vantage point of 360 miles (575 km), ICON will spend two years examining the complex interactions between Earth’s ionosphere and the onslaught of the solar wind. Launch of the mission was originally scheduled to occur from Kwajalein Atoll, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, in early June, but was repeatedly delayed due to technical difficulties. This also prompted a realignment of the launch site and ICON will now depart from the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

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'Zero-G, And I Feel Fine': 20 Years Since John Glenn's Return to Space

STS-95 launches on 29 October 1998. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years have now passed since John Glenn—who had found fame as the first American to orbit the Earth—became the oldest human being ever to break the shackles of the Home Planet and venture into space. Aged 77 at the time of his flight in October 1998, Glenn was more than a decade older than the next-oldest astronaut on the list and, even today, his record remains unbroken. The reason for flying a septuagenarian was ostensibly to assess the effect of spaceflight upon the aging process, although Glenn’s mission had met with great criticism and was seen in many quarters as little more than a political stunt. Yet, science and politics aside, he demonstrated to elderly people worldwide that life experiences were no longer off-limits, purely on the basis of age. And that, surely, is the true legacy of STS-95.

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NASA: Attempts to Contact Opportunity Rover 'Will Continue For Foreseeable Future'

One of the last views seen by Opportunity before it went into hibernation mode last June, looking down into Endeavour crater. This image is part of a larger panorama. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

It has now been close to five months since we last heard from NASA’s rover Opportunity on Mars. It went into hibernation mode due to an intense global dust storm, and has been silent ever since June 10, 2018. Needless to say, there has been growing concern as to whether the rover would be able to survive the storm; Opportunity has made it through dust storms and other hazards before, but this dust storm was particularly fierce.

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'Nothing But the Highest': 25 Years Since Shuttle Columbia's Third-Time-Lucky Launch to Orbit

Glorious view of the Home Planet from STS-58, with the SLS-2 Spacelab module clearly visible in Columbia’s payload bay. Photo Credit: NASA

It took three tries to get STS-58 off the ground, 25 years ago, this month.

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'From the Lovely Apollo Room': 50 Years Since Apollo 7 Brought America's Lunar Goal Closer (Part 3)

The final stage of the Saturn IB, the S-IVB also formed the component of the Saturn V which would house the lunar module. On Apollo 7, astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham performed several rendezvous activities with the spent stage. Photo Credit: NASA

Half a century ago, in October 1968, Project Apollo—the United States’ multi-billion-dollar campaign to plant American boots on the surface of the Moon before the end of the decade—rose from the ashes of despair and triumphantly flew an 11-day mission in low-Earth orbit. Apollo 7 astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham launched atop a mammoth Saturn IB booster from Cape Kennedy’s Pad 34 on 11 October 1968 to undertake a thorough shakedown of the most complex piloted vehicle then in existence. The mission’s engineering success, though, would be tempered by a spell of head-colds and a somewhat testing relationship between the crew and flight controllers.

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Atlas V 551 Heavylifter Back in Business for Long-Delayed AEHF-4 Launch for Air Force

United Launch Alliance (ULA) launches its 50th mission for the U.S. Air Force and the 250th flight of a Centaur booster in the opening minutes of Wednesday, 17 October. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

The most powerful member of United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V fleet—the mighty “551” variant, previously used on eight occasions, from lofting NASA’s New Horizons to Pluto in January 2006 to this year’s AFSPC-11 mission for the Air Force—saw service again earlier today (Wednesday, 17 October), when it boosted the fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-4) communications satellite into supersynchronous transfer orbit. It was ULA’s 50th mission for the U.S. Air Force and the 250th flight of the liquid-fueled Centaur booster, whose heritage extends back over five decades. Liftoff the Atlas V 551 took place just after midnight at 12:15 a.m. EDT, rising into the darkness on a pillar of flame from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Tonight’s flight marked ULA’s fifth Atlas V mission of the year and the Centennial, Colo.-headquartered organization’s eighth overall launch in 2018. Next up in December will be the classified NROL-71 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, riding this year’s second Delta IV Heavy.

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'Yabadabadoo': 50 Years Since Apollo 7 Brought America's Lunar Goal Closer (Part 2)

The expended Saturn S-IVB stage as photographed from the Apollo 7 spacecraft during transposition and docking maneuvers. This view is over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty years ago, this month, Apollo 7—America’s first three-person space mission—launched from Pad 34 at Cape Kennedy and spent almost 11 days in low-Earth orbit, testing systems aboard the Command and Service Module (CSM) and clearing a significant hurdle in the nation’s drive to land a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s. In laying to rest the ghosts of the Apollo 1 launch pad, it was a spectacular success, the second-longest U.S. space mission at that time, and Commander Wally Schirra earned a niche in history as the first man to log a third flight into orbit. Yet in spite of its technical success, five decades later, Apollo 7 remains haunted by head colds and a reportedly testy crew, none of whom flew again.

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