SSEP, Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

SSEP | Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

A Model U.S. National STEM Education Initiative for Grades 5-16
to inspire the next generation
of America’s scientists and engineers

NEW FLIGHT OPPORTUNITY – Mission 15 to ISS ( Go to 2/3/20 Announcement )
Experiment Design Phase: Fall 2020; Flight to ISS: Late Spring 2021 Download: Press Release PDF

Watch Video Clips describing SSEP: Clip 1 (NASA), Clip 2 (NASA)
STEM Impact in Era of Commercial Space: Video – SSEP Showcased at Congressional Hearing, 11/5/19
Scientific American
feature article on SSEP: February 17, 2015

Multimedia (click on toggles below)

ISS Current Location

The ISS Current Location tracker above was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA’s Columbus laboratory is a component of the ISS. Visit the ESA website for more information on the tracker.

HDEV Live View of Earth from ISS

This high definition video of your world is being telemetered to Earth LIVE from the International Space Station. To determine what portion of Earth is in view, use the ‘ISS Current Location’ toggle above. We invite you to get into the spirit of exploration on the frontiers of space – select an audio file below, expand the HDEV video window to full screen, and look down from 250 miles above Earth’s surface. Suggestions for other audio tracks are welcome:)

David Bowie’s Space Oddity, sung by Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield on ISS (watch his video)

About HDEV, from NASA: The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment aboard the ISS was activated April 30, 2014. It is mounted on the External Payload Facility of the European Space Agency’s Columbus module. HDEV includes four fixed cameras positioned to capture imagery of the Earth’s surface and its limb as seen from the ISS – one camera pointing in the direction the station is moving, two cameras aft (wake), and one camera pointing straight down at Earth (nadir). While the experiment is operational, views will typically sequence though the different cameras. Between camera switches, a gray and then black color slate will briefly appear. To learn more about the HDEV experiment, visit this NASA webpage.

Twitter Feed with Images from Astronauts Currently Aboard ISS

Spot the Station: When Will ISS Fly Over Your Town?

In late 2015, the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education suggested to NASA Headquarters that a Spot the Station widget, which could be easily embedded on any website, would be a wonderful way to extend ISS public awareness. The widget below was the result, and you’ll note that it is also found in the right column on all main pages of this SSEP website.

You are invited to use the widget to explore Station over-flights of your community, and even embed this widget on your website by clicking on the “About” button in the widget.

SSEP MISSIONS 14 to 16 TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION AND COMMEMORATION OF THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE APOLLO MOON LANDINGS

The flight of Apollo 11 to the Moon, crewed by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, may be arguably the most remarkable journey ever undertaken by humankind. At 9:56 pm EST on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on another world.

In 2019 the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and it is noteworthy that 1.5 billion people alive today were alive in 1969.

But the Apollo program included a total of 9 missions with a spacecraft traveling to the Moon, and 6 of those missions each landed 2 astronauts on the lunar surface. To date, 12 humans have walked on the Moon – a quarter of a million miles from our home world Earth. These missions took place 1968 to 1972 – from Apollo 8, with the first spacecraft to fly around the Moon, to Apollo 17, the final Apollo mission.

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) is using SSEP Missions 14 through 16 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo Program, given SSEP program operations for these three missions span 2019-2022. SSEP Mission 14 started in September 2019, and SSEP Mission 16 experiments are expected to be launched in Late Spring 2022.

SSEP Mission 14 – 16 communities can therefore use their participation in SSEP as a 50th Anniversary Apollo celebration, with multidisciplinary connections to STEM, history, and art. What better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary than engaging a community of hundreds of students in the real space program, and real spaceflight, on the frontiers of human exploration.

SSEP Mission SSEP Program Operations Apollo Mission Dates
Mission 14 2019 – 2020 1969 – Apollo 11, 12; 1970 – Apollo 13
Mission 15 2020 – 2021 1970 – Apollo 13; 1971 – Apollo 14, 15
Mission 16 2021 – 2022 1971 – Apollo 14,15; 1972 – Apollo 16, 17

We invite your community to use your SSEP Mission Patch Art and Design Competitions to both capture your community’s participation in America’s Space Program through SSEP, and celebrate these most remarkable journeys undertaken by the human race 50 years ago. It is an opportunity to celebrate the past, embrace the present, and inspire in our next generation … the future.

We also invite you to explore the SSEP Launch and On-Orbit Operations History page, which provides a sense of the already rich history of the SSEP Program. Here you will find s list of SSEP missions and payload designations, videos of all SSEP launches, a list of all astronauts that have operated SSEP experiments, and videos of astronauts operating the experiments.

A careful read of this home page will provide an Executive Summary of the Program. The rest of this website provides a deeper understanding of program pedagogy and operations; guidance for how a community can come aboard; and resources to conduct the program.

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) was launched in June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in strategic partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. Designed as a model U.S. national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative, the program gives students across a participating community the ability to design and propose real microgravity experiments to fly in low Earth orbit (experiments conducted in a “weightless” environment). SSEP was first carried out aboard the final two flights of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program in 2011 (STS-134 Endeavour, STS-135 Atlantis). In 2012 SSEP transitioned to operations on the International Space Station (ISS) – America’s newest National Laboratory.

SSEP is suitable for students in pre-college grades 5-12, 2-year community colleges, and 4-year colleges and universities. A participating pre-college community typically engages 300+ students (at least 100 students) in microgravity experiment design and proposal writing. For an undergraduate community, it is expected that at least 30 students will be engaged.

In 2012, SSEP was extended to international communities through the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, NCESSE’s new international arm.

Click on the image and feel the magic. Shuttle Endeavour on its final flight (STS-134) docked at ISS, May 23, 2011. Aboard her are 16 SSEP Experiments. Read more at nasa.gov

SSEP is about immersing and engaging
students and their teachers in every facet
of real science—on the high frontier—so
that students are given the chance to be
scientists—and experience science firsthand.

More broadly, SSEP is about a commitment to student ownership in exploration, to science as journey, and to the joys of learning.

Of special note – SSEP is garnering extensive media coverage at local, regional, and national levels (over 1,200 articles to date). School districts are effectively leveraging media exposure from their participation in this high caliber STEM initiative, and at a time when STEM education is of national strategic importance, and is becoming a core element of the curriculum at the local level (see the SSEP in the News pages, and e.g., a recent Scientific American feature article).

Important note: SSEP is not designed for an individual class or a small number of students in a pre-college community. Implementing SSEP for an appropriate-sized student audience is straightforward, and Implementation Plans from a large number of communities that have participated in SSEP are available on request.

Each community participating in SSEP is provided a very real research asset – a flight certified, straightforward to use microgravity research mini-laboratory, and guaranteed launch services to transport the mini-laboratory to the International Space Station (ISS). It is a precious and limited research asset given that the mini-laboratory can only contain a single student team designed microgravity experiment. An astronaut aboard ISS will conduct the experiment, and after a typical 4 to 6 week stay in orbit, the experiment will be returned safely to Earth for harvesting and analysis by the community’s student flight team.

Mirroring how professional researchers formally compete to obtain limited research assets, the participating community carries out a “call for proposals”. More specifically, the community conducts a local Flight Experiment Design Competition , engaging hundreds of students in teams of typically 3-5, with each team vying for the community’s single experiment slot by proposing a microgravity research program that can be carried out in the mini-laboratory. The competition is conducted through formal submission of real (but grade level appropriate) research proposals by the student teams – as is standard practice for professional researchers. (A minimum of 50-80 flight experiment proposals are typically secured across a single pre-college community. At least 10 proposals are required for an undergraduate community.)

Each community’s flight experiment is selected through a formal 2-step proposal review process. The final selection is carried out by the SSEP National Step 2 Review Board, which meets at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. The flight experiment then undergoes a 4-month NASA flight safety review at Johnson Space Center; laboratory refinement by the student flight team; handover to NanoRacks in Houston for integration into the SSEP experiments payload; and payload integration into the ferry vehicle for flight to ISS. SSEP experiment payloads launch from either Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, adjoining NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, or from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Wallops Island, Virginia, on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft.

SSEP is not a simulation – this is very real spaceflight. This is very real student immersion in space science research, and a remarkable opportunity for a community.

SSEP provides each community its own – very real – Space Program.

An annual SSEP National Conference held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, immerses delegations of students in a real research conference where they formally present to their peers on experiment design and science results (explore the 2019 Conference page, and video clips of presentations archived on the Scientific Return and Reporting pages, see e.g., Mission 12 to ISS Scientific Return and Reporting and Mission 13 to ISS Scientific Return and Reporting).

A suite of SSEP program elements—the Community Program —leverages the flight experiment design competition to engage the entire community, embracing a Learning Community Model for STEM education. One element is a Mission Patch art and design competition allowing hundreds of students across the community (down to grade K) to capture through art and design their community’s SSEP experience. Up to two Mission Patches accompany the community’s selected flight experiment to low Earth orbit.

Strategic Curricular Connections to Science and STEM

Students can design experiments in diverse fields, including: seed germination, crystal growth, micro-encapsulation, chemical processes, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms (e.g. bacteria), cell biology and growth, food studies, and studies of micro-aquatic life. SSEP is therefore relevant across all science disciplines, and allows all teachers of science across a community to immerse students in a fully authentic process of scientific inquiry. A curriculum, and other resources for teachers and students, supports foundational instruction on both the cause and characteristics of a microgravity (weightlessness) environment; the science conducted in microgravity and why; guidance for proposal writing; and the experiment design process that flows from the key essential question–

The essential question driving experiment design:
What physical, chemical, or biological system would I like to explore with gravity seemingly turned off for a period of time, as a means of assessing the role of gravity in that system?

SSEP provides seamless integration across STEM disciplines through an authentic, high visibility research experience that correctly places content within a process landscape – an approach that embraces the Next Generation Science Standard s , but also requires –

  • a critical understanding of the space Technology , and associated spaceflight operations, used to transport payload to and from Low Earth Orbit and conduct microgravity experiments on ISS,
  • a critical understanding of the Engineering specifications for the mini-laboratory, which provide real-world constraints on experiment design,
  • Mathematics to design a viable experiment to operate in the mini-laboratory, through: refinement of sample (fluid and solid) concentrations and volumes, defining a timeline that is consistent with the experiment’s duration aboard ISS, and defining an approach to data analysis after the experiment returns to Earth.

In addition, student teams are writing real proposals that then go through a formal review process. This addresses vital skills in terms of historical research, critical writing and communications, and teamwork.

Through this authentic trans-disciplinary approach to STEM education, SSEP is designed to inspire and engage the next generation of scientists and engineers, and more generally, address STEM literacy. For school districts—even individual schools—SSEP provides an opportunity to implement a systemic, high caliber STEM education program tailored to community need. With the Mission Patch art and design competitions, SSEP is more appropriately designated a STEAM initiative .

Appropriate Lead Institutions to Conduct this Program

The program is open to 5 categories of community, which provides a great deal of flexibility in implementing SSEP at the local level:

  • Pre-College(the core focus for SSEP) in the U.S. , (grades 5-12), with a participating school district—even an individual school—providing a stunning, real, on-orbit RESEARCH opportunity to their upper elementary, middle, and high school students
  • 2-Year Community Colleges in the U.S., (grades 13-14), where the student body is typically from the local community, providing wonderful pathways for community-wide engagement
  • 4-Year Colleges and Universities in the U.S. , (grades 13-16), with an emphasis on Minority-Serving Institutions, where the program fosters interdisciplinary collaboration across schools and departments, and an opportunity for formal workforce development for science majors
  • Communities in the U.S. led by Informal Education or Out-of-School Organizations, (e.g., a museum or science center, a home school network, a boy scout troop), because high caliber STEM education programs must be accessible to organizations that promote effective learning beyond the traditional classroom
  • Communities Internationally: in European Space Agency (ESA) member nations, European Union (EU) member nations, Canada, and Japan with participation through NCESSE’s Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education. Communities in other nations should explore the potential for their participation by contacting the Institute.

Flight Opportunities to Date

Since program inception in June 2010, there have been 16 SSEP flight opportunities—SSEP on STS-134 and STS-135, which were the final flights of Space Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis; and SSEP Missions 1 through 14 to ISS. A total of 191 communities have participated in the program, reflecting 42 States and the District of Columbia in the U. S., 5 Provinces in Canada, and a community in Brazil. Thus far 58 communities have participated in multiple flight opportunities – one community conducting their 9th flight with Mission 13 – reflecting the sustainable nature of the program.

Through the first 16 flight opportunities (through Mission 14), a total of 126,600 grade 5-16 students across 2,496 schools were fully immersed in microgravity experiment design and proposal writing, 25,518 flight experiment proposals were received from student teams, and 314 experiments were selected for flight. Through Mission 13, 147,400 students across the entire grade preK-16 pipeline were engaged in their communities’ broader STEAM experience, submitting 120,670 Mission Patch designs.

All 281 experiments selected for flight through Mission 13 have now flown. The Mission 13 experiments launched on SpaceX-18 on July 25, 2019, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, and returned to Earth on August 27, 2019. Another 33 experiments are expected to launch in Summer 2020 as the Mission 14 Apollo payload of experiments on SpaceX-21, launching from the Cape.

For more information on SSEP Missions to date–

Explore the SSEP Launch and On-Orbit Operations History page, which provides videos of all SSEP launches, a list of all astronauts that have operated SSEP experiments, and videos of astronauts operating the experiments.

Explore the Flight Opportunities to Date page, which provides launch and landing dates, and information on the ferry spacecraft, astronaut crews aboard ISS during experiment operation, and the SSEP flight experiment payloads.

Explore the separate SSEP website – the SSEP Community Network Hubsite – which is dedicated to the participating communities and the over 1,250 organizational partners at the local level. At the Hubsite, you can read profiles of the participating communities, see a map of the Community Network, read about the selected flight experiments and flight Mission Patches, explore the 1,000+ media articles on SSEP, and watch videos of student teams reporting out at the SSEP National Conferences in Washington, DC.

Latest Flight Opportunity

February 3, 2020 : Announcing SSEP Mission 15 to the International Space Station (ISS)

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education announce the seventeenth SSEP flight opportunity – SSEP Mission 15 to ISS – which provides for an experiment design competition Fall 2020, and a ferry flight for the selected flight experiments to ISS in Late Spring 2021. SSEP Mission 15 to ISS is currently the only SSEP flight opportunity available.

Time Available for Experiment Design:
Your Student Teams, led by your designated SSEP Local Team of Teacher Facilitators, will have 9 weeks from program start to proposal submission: September 1 to November 4, 2020. During this time, core activities include:

  • introducing SSEP curricular content for foundational instruction on: the nature of microgravity, science conducted in microgravity, mini-laboratory operation, and experimental design
  • defining student teaming, and facilitation of microgravity experiment design across all student teams
  • each team writing a formal 5-page, grade level appropriate flight experiment proposal

Key Milestones:

  • Experiment Design and Proposal Writing (9 weeks): September 1 – November 4, 2020
  • Flight Experiment Proposals due to your lead institution: November 4, 2020
  • Local Step 1 Review Board selects 3 finalist proposals, submits to NCESSE: November 13, 2020
  • Formal selection of your community’s flight experiment: December 17, 2020
  • Ferry Flight of SSEP Payload to ISS, estimated launch date: Late Spring 2021
  • Ferry Flight of SSEP Payload back to Earth: typically Launch Plus 4 – 6 weeks
  • SSEP National Conference for students: late June or early July 2021 and 2022, most likely held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, the site of the 2011 through 2019 Conferences

TIME CRITICAL
Letters of Commitment of Funding from Participating Communities: due August 24, 2020
Mission 15 to ISS Starts in Participating Communities: September 1, 2020

ASAP: Interested communities are directed to contact NCESSE as soon as possible, but no later than March 27, 2020, to explore participation. It typically takes 3-4 months in advance of program start to plan and fund the program in a community (funding with assistance from NCESSE if required – see below).

Contact: Dr. Jeff Goldstein at [email protected], or 301-395-0770;
Download: Mission 15 Press Release, or view online

SSEP provides significant flexibility for a community to design a program to their strategic needs in STEM education—

  • A community of any size can participate, including a small school district, an individual school, a large inner city or suburban district, a cluster of rural districts, a college, or a museum/science center or other informal education led community-based effort
  • The baseline SSEP program provides for typically 300+ students participating in the Experiment Design Competition in each pre-college community; or at least 30 students participating in an undergraduate community
  • A community can open the competition to any grade level(s) in the grade 5-16 range, and through the provided elements of the SSEP Community Program , engage wider audiences (all grade levels, families, and the general public). The Community Program includes: a competition to design a Mission Patch to fly in space with your flight experiment, and a S SEP National Conference in Washington, DC. The Community Program also provides the means for a National Team of scientists and engineers to travel to your community for up to a week, and engage thousands of grade K-16 students—one classroom at a time; conduct family and public programs like those the Center conducts at the National Air and Space Museum; and provide professional development for grade K-12 teachers.
  • SSEP is a bold new commercial space venture in partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC. The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, must recover the actual costs for the program (lease of commercial space for the mini-laboratory in the flight payload and aboard ISS, all flight services to and from low Earth orbit, program delivery and community support), but also recognizes the significant challenge to a community in securing underwriting in the current financial climate. That said, the Center is committed to trying to find funding for any community in the U.S. and Canada interested in participating. The Center found full or partial funding for 224 of the 303 SSEP community programs undertaken as part of the first 16 SSEP flight opportunities, and we now have active relationships with a national network of a few hundred funders. If you are interested in this program, let us help.

Strategic, National, and Local Partners, and Event Sponsors

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. SSEP is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. NCESSE, the Clarke Institute, DreamUp, and NanoRacks are therefore designated SSEP Strategic Partners. Visit the Strategic Partners page to read about their SSEP programmatic roles and responsibilities.

SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.

NCESSE and the Clarke Institute are proud to be working with the following National Partners on SSEP
— in the U.S., the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in space (CASIS), and Subaru of America, Inc.
— in Canada, Magellan Aerospace.
To read more about these partnerships, visit the National Partners and Sponsors page.

Underwriting by Conference and Event Sponsors make events for the SSEP community network possible. Read more at the National Partners and Sponsors page.

Partnership is truly a hallmark of SSEP. Over 1,250 organizations have supported SSEP at the local level, including: school districts, private schools, NASA Space Grant lead institutions and other universities, corporate foundations, businesses, community foundations, and local research institutions. These organizations are designated the SSEP Local Partners. To explore the Local Partners, visit the Communities & Local Partners page at the Community Network Hubsite.

SSEP was designed to be a keystone initiative for U.S. National STEM education, and to help inspire America’s next generation of scientists and engineers. Through the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, the International arm of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, SSEP participation is also being expanded internationally to reflect the multinational complexion of ISS operations.

Phase 1 of SSEP was a unique and historic opportunity for students to propose experiments to fly aboard STS-134 and STS-135, the final flights of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program. We wanted the final voyages of the Space Shuttle to also mark a new beginning for student experiments in space, enabled by the new age of commercial space – the new private sector of companies providing transport services to and from low Earth orbit. This Phase 2 of SSEP provides communities of grade 5-16 students the ability to design and propose real microgravity experiments, just like professional researchers, for operation by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

We want SSEP to provide routine student researcher access to space via commercial payloads; to leverage the power of such access into a STEM education program delivered at the local level across an entire community; and to serve a network of such communities across the nation—even internationally.

To our children, who are America’s future in the 21 st century—
be part of history … by making history.

To schools and school districts committed to STEM education—
let us help your students step into the shoes of scientists and engineers … right now.

PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENTS, DISTRICT SCIENCE OFFICES, PRINCIPALS, TEACHERS, AND OTHER COMMUNITY STAKEHOLDERS

INTERESTED? YOUR NEXT STEP: go to the About SSEP page for a comprehensive overview of SSEP, including a description of strategic STEM objectives, program elements, customization to community need, and cost.

All content on this website is Copyright 2020, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE). Any use of this content without the permission of NCESSE is prohibited.

Success for SpaceX re-usable rocket – BBC News

Success for SpaceX ‘re-usable rocket’

These are external links and will open in a new window

These are external links and will open in a new window

California’s SpaceX company has successfully re-flown a segment from one of its Falcon 9 rockets.

The first-stage booster, which was previously used on a mission 11 months ago, helped send a telecommunications satellite into orbit from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

It marks an important milestone for SpaceX in its quest for re-usability.

Traditionally, rockets are expendable – their various segments are discarded and destroyed during an ascent.

The California outfit, in contrast, aims to recover Falcon first-stages and fly them multiple times to try to reduce the cost of its operations.

And to emphasise this point, Thursday’s booster was also brought back under control to land on a barge stationed out in the Atlantic.

“I think it’s an amazing day for space,” said Elon Musk, the chief executive of SpaceX.

“It means you can fly and re-fly an orbit class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, hopefully, a huge revolution in spaceflight.”

The lift-off had occurred on cue at 18:27 EDT (22:27 GMT; 23:27 BST).

The satellite passenger, SES-10, was ejected some 32 minutes later.

This spacecraft is now being manoeuvred by its own thruster system to a position over the equator from where it can deliver TV and telecom services to the Caribbean, Brazil, and other regions in Central and South America.

SpaceX has become adept in the past two years at bringing first-stage boosters home after they have completed their primary task of getting a payload out of the thicker lower-reaches of the atmosphere.

The segments autonomously guide themselves back to the floating platform or a coastal pad to make propulsive landings.

Thursday’s mission was the first time one of these “flight proven” vehicles had been re-launched.

Other landed boosters will now be used on future missions. Another six this year, most likely.

Some customers may still insist on a brand new rocket, but if SpaceX can demonstrate routine, untroubled performance from these second-hand vehicles then satellite operators will get increasingly comfortable with the concept.

Getting away from expendable rockets has been a long quest.

Famously, Nasa’s space shuttle system was partially re-usable.

Its white solid-fuel strap-on boosters, for example, would parachute into the Atlantic after each launch. The casings of these boosters were then refurbished and re-used numerous times.

And yet the complexities of servicing the shuttle system after every flight swamped any savings.

SpaceX expects its simpler Falcon 9 rocket finally to deliver a practical commercial solution. It believes its technology will eventually permit rapid turnaround, with boosters flying perhaps 10 times before being retired; maybe even up to 100 times with a certain level of refurbishment.

“With this being the first re-flight we were incredibly paranoid about everything,” Mr Musk said.

“The core airframe remained the same, the engines remained the same – but any auxiliary components that we thought might be slightly questionable, we changed out. Now our aspiration will be zero hardware changes, re-flight in 24 hours – the only thing that changes is that we reload propellant.”

Other players are following close behind. The Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos already has a re-usable sub-orbital rocket and capsule system that he has successfully launched and landed five times.

Mr Bezos now plans a recoverable orbital rocket called New Glenn. And United Launch Alliance, which puts up the majority of America’s national security payloads, is in the process of designing a new vehicle that will return its engines to Earth via parachute.

All this is welcome news for the likes of Luxembourg satellite operator SES, which is having to queue up for rocket rides and wait many months to get its valuable telecoms spacecraft in orbit and earning revenue.

“It’s a big deal for us. If we can get reliable re-usability then we will get better management of the manifest,” said Martin Halliwell, the chief technology officer for SES.

“We made a little bit of history today, actually. We just opened the door to a whole new era of spaceflight,”

This Space TV Startup Plans To Stream Live Videos Of Earth’s Surface From Space In 2021

This Space TV Startup Plans To Stream Live Videos Of Earth’s Surface From Space In 2021

Sen is planning a constellation of up to 100 video-streaming satellites.

A startup company that hopes to provide real-time video streaming of Earth from space has announced it will launch its first satellite in 2021, with four further satellites set to launch in 2022.

Sen, based in the U.K., said it had contracted Lithunia-based NanoAvionics to build the five satellites, together called EarthTV, which will be equipped with cameras to beam ultra-high definition (UHD) video to Earth from space. The satellites will be among the first to watch events on Earth unfold in real-time, enabling a wide range of services for companies and consumers.

“Sen’s vision is to become a space video company, to stream real-time video from space with a focus on environmental events and human movement,” says Charles Black, founder and CEO of Sen. “[There are already] companies capturing still imagery at different resolutions. What we’re doing is introducing a new type of data to the market, which is video.”

Famously Smelly Fruit Could One Day Charge Your Phone

Dinosaur-Days Were Half An Hour Shorter Than Today

5 Climate Skepticism Tactics Emerging With Coronavirus

The satellites will be launched into a Sun-synchronous orbit, one that remains constantly in sunlight, about 500 kilometers above Earth’s surface. Each so-called nano-satellite, less than two meters across, will have use its camera to view Earth in a variety of resolutions, ranging from 250 meters down to just 1.5 meters.

Events that will be observed will include environmental disasters, such as flooding and wildfires, along with the movements of large groups of people. “We feel that video data will help organizations help displaced people by providing real-time or very timely information,” says Black.

Each steerable satellite will be able to focus on these events unfolding on the ground below, and stream them in real-time. Companies will be able to pay Sen to access the service, while members of the public will be able to watch the stream and get a live glimpse of Earth’s surface through an app. “That will enable individuals to watch and track events,” says Black.

Sen has already demonstrated its capabilities on a satellite launched by the Russian organization RSC Energia in February 2019, highlighting the impressive quality of their video footage. But the ultimate goal is to operate a fleet of spacecraft in orbit, providing large amounts of video of Earth’s surface.

The company already has cameras orbiting Earth on a Russian-built satellite.

“I would like to target something like 100 [satellites in orbit],” says Black. “So it’s not going to be a ‘mega constellation’. But it’s going to be one where we have real-time video of pretty much any place on Earth.”

Sen’s goals do not just extend to Earth orbit, as the company hopes to also eventually send some of its video spacecraft to the Moon or even Mars. The goal here is to have spacecraft in place to watch the arrival of future human missions, planned by organizations like NASA and SpaceX, and stream video back to people on Earth.

“As people expand to the Moon, Sen wants to be telling that story,” says Black. “We believe society needs an independent media that can tell that story of both government agencies and private companies that explore the Moon. We’re aiming for the Moon in the mid-2020s at the earliest, and Mars in 2030 onwards.”

For now though the focus is very much on Earth. And with the launches beginning next year, the company hopes to deliver unique views of the planet from space. “With the real-time capability we believe there is very little similar data available at the moment,” says Black.

Testing opportunities missed ahead of ill-fated Boeing Starliner spaceflight, review finds

Testing opportunities missed ahead of ill-fated Boeing Starliner spaceflight, review finds

NASA: Boeing must come up with corrective plan prior to next spaceflight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – An independent review of Boeing’s ill-fated Starliner spaceflight found testing opportunities were missed before launch and the next time Starliner will fly remains unknown, Boeing and NASA officials said Friday as they revealed the results of their joint investigation into Starliner’s December orbital test flight.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner launched from Cape Canaveral in December without astronauts on board. The spacecraft was bound for the International Space Station to test its launch, docking and landing systems but the spacecraft was forced to return to Earth 48 hours after launch when it missed a critical maneuver to catch up to the space station.

NASA previously said three main issues were discovered during Boeing’s December orbital test flight, two were related to software errors and the third was an intermittent communication problem between the spacecraft and controllers on the ground.

On Friday, Boeing and NASA officials said an independent review team has made more than 60 corrective recommendations to Boeing and identified three specific issues that must be addressed before the spacecraft can fly again.

NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Doug Loverro said, specifically, the review team found Boeing did not run all possible software tests ahead of the first flight.

“There are four ways software could have run,” Loverro said. “We didn’t test all four ways it could have run.”

The independent review team found that too much authority was given to the software board before changes were made to the spacecraft software. Those changes should have been brought up to the design review board, Loverro said.

Last week, Boeing Starliner Program Manager John Mulholland said Boeing will now test the spacecraft software from start to finish prior to launch.

NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders said next Boeing will come up with a plan to correct the issues discovered during the review and present that plan to NASA, possibly by the end of the month. NASA will then need to approve or recommend changes to the plan.

Since 2011, the U.S. has relied on Russian rockets to get its crew to the space station.

NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to build human-rated spacecraft to fly U.S. astronauts as part of the Commercial Crew program, awarding the private companies a combined $6.4 billion. Both companies have experienced delays as they work to certify their capsules to fly crew to the ISS and bring them home safely.

Due to the program delays, NASA is in negotiation with Russia to purchase extra seats to fly astronauts to the ISS.

The Boeing Starliner Orbital Test Flight on Dec. 20 was part of the process to certify the spacecraft to fly NASA astronauts.

Elon Musk’s company successfully launched Crew Dragon — without astronauts — to the ISS and brought it home for an Atlantic Ocean splashdown last year.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is slated to launch with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley as soon as this spring, marking the first time Americans have launched from U.S. soil since the shuttle program.

After Friday’s call with NASA and Boeing, it’s still unclear if Starliner will have to repeat its orbital test flight before flying astronauts because it did not dock at the space station.

“Quite frankly we don’t know,” Loverro said when asked about another uncrewed test flight. “I can’t even tell you what the schedule will be on that.”

NASA will evaluate Boeing’s plan to correct the Starliner issues before it determines if there will be a second test flight, Loverro said.

Boeing’s Senior Vice President Jim Chilton said the company is ready to repeat a test flight without a crew, if NASA asks.

“’All of us want crew safety No. 1,” Chilton said. “Whatever testing we’ve got to do to make that happen, we embrace it.”

The results of the review will also roll over into another major NASA program Boeing is involved in, the Space Launch System, otherwise known as the Artemis program rocket. Boeing is the prime contractor for the rocket’s core stage and the developer of the flight electronics.

A high-visibility close call like Starliner’s triggers a review of Boeing as a whole in addition to the independent review just completed, according to NASA.

Loverro said this procedure allows NASA to formally document lessons learned from the Starliner flight and perform “an organizational root causes assessment,” meaning NASA will look at both Boeing and NASA organizational processes.

“I think we could all agree that it was a close call, we could have lost a spacecraft twice during this mission,” Loverro said, adding if it weren’t for Boeing’s actions, the orbital test flight could have ended very differently.

Mulholland said the changes from the larger review could help “the whole space ecosystem.”

Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

SpaceX Launch Calendar: Announced 2019 Schedule for Rocket Launches

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

SpaceX is known for its nail-biting rocket launches that keep people glued to their screens, waiting to see if the mission will be a success or a fiery failure. Watching these launches has become so popular that SpaceX is now live streaming nearly every one. Want to watch a Falcon Heavy or the cutting-edge Dragon capsule take to the skies? Then check out this curated schedule of upcoming SpaceX launches below, so you know when to tune in. Dates listed are as up to date as possible, but due to changing weather conditions and a variety of other factors, launch dates frequently shift.

2/9/2019 NASA Falcon 9/Crew Dragon spacecraft Kennedy Space Center, Florida Crew Dragon Demo 1 – uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station.
Feb 2019 PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara and SpaceIL Falcon 9 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida Launch of the PSN communications satellite and the SpaceIL Lunar Lander, a privately funded lunar lander developed by Israel’s SpaceIL Launch window: TBD.
March 2019 Arabsat of Saudi Arabia Kennedy Space Center, Florida Falcon Heavy Launch of Arabsat 6A communications satellite.
3/16/2019 NASA Cape Canaveral, Florida Falcon 9/Dragon 17th Dragon cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station.
March 2019 Canadian Space Agency and MDA Vandenberg Air Force Base, California Falcon 9 Launch of three Earth-observation Radarsat satellites Launch window: TBD.
April 2019 U.S. Air Force Kennedy Space Center, Florida Falcon Heavy USAF’s Space Test Program-2 mission. Launch window: TBD.
2nd Quarter 2019 Spacecom Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Falcon 9 Launch of the Amos 17 communications satellite from Boeing and Spacecom. Launch window: TBD.
June 2019 NASA Falcon 9/Crew Dragon spacecraft Kennedy Space Center, Florida Crew Dragon Demo 2 – first manned test flight to the International Space Station and back with a sea splashdown landing. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will fly the spacecraft.
7/8/2019 NASA Cape Canaveral, Florida Falcon 9/Dragon 18th Dragon cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station.
Oct 2019 U.S. Air Force Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Falcon 9 Launch of the second GPS III navigation satellite (GPS3 SVO3).
10/15/2019 NASA Cape Canaveral, Florida Falcon 9/Dragon 19th Dragon cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station.
4th Quarter 2019 Conae Vandenberg Air Force Base, California Falcon 9 Launch of the Saocom 1B Earth observing satellite for Argentina’s Conae space agency. Launch window: TBD.

SpaceX is on a mission to make spaceflight affordable by creating a reusable rocket that can launch, land, and fly again — much like a passenger plane. The privately funded company has made great strides since its debut in 2002, and logged a record number of firsts — including the first retrieval of a private spacecraft from low orbit, the historic landing of a Falcon 9 rocket, and an impressive drone ship landing. Let’s also not forget that one time Elon Musk sent a Tesla Roadster into space, headed for Mars orbit.

Launch and landing are just the beginning though. In recent years, Space X has moved closer to its reusable rocket dreams by successfully reusing a Falcon 9 rocket to deliver a commercial satellite into orbit. This year, the company has an aggressive launch schedule that includes several ISS resupply missions, a Falcon heavy launch and even a demonstration of its cutting-edge Crew Dragon capsule which one day will shuttle crew to the ISS. Each successful flight brings the company closer to its goal of making rocket launches into space as safe and routine as airline flights.

Universe Today – Space and astronomy news

Universe Today

Posts

Weekly Space Hangout: March 11, 2020 – Dr. Jon Willis talks Galaxy Cluster XLSSC 122

This week we are airing Fraser’s PRERECORDED interview with Dr. Jon Willis, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria, Canada.

Asteroid Bennu is Getting Some Official Names for its Surface Features

Late last summer, NASA and the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (a.k.a WGPSN) approved the naming convention for features on Bennu, the asteroid currently being orbited and studied by the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft. The naming theme chosen was “birds and bird-like creatures in mythology.”

The first twelve features thusly named have now been announced. But more importantly, some of these features will be instrumental in helping to guide OSIRIS-REx to the surface of the asteroid later this year.

SpaceX Launches its Last Dragon 1 Mission to the ISS

On Friday, March 6th, as part of the company’s 20th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-20) mission, SpaceX launched a Dragon 1 capsule destined for the International Space Station (ISS). The mission involved the transport of supplies, as well as materials related to the more than 250 science investigations taking place aboard the ISS. More than that, it represented a milestone for the aerospace manufacturer.

OSIRIS-REx did its Closest Flyover Yet, just 250 Meters Above its Sample Site

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is getting closer, physically and temporally, to its primary goal. The spacecraft arrived at Bennu at the end of 2018, and for just over a year it’s been studying the asteroid, searching for a suitable sampling site. To do that, it’s getting closer and closer.

Europe’s Mission to Jupiter’s Moons Just Got its First Instrument

The space agencies of the world have some truly ambitious plans in mind for the coming decade. Alongside missions that will search for evidence for past (and maybe present) life on Mars, next-generation space telescopes, and the “return to the Moon”, there are missions will which will explore Jupiter’s moons for signs of extra-terrestrial life. These include the ESA’s JUpiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE), which will launch in 2022.

As part of the agency’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program, this spacecraft will conduct detailed observations of Jupiter and three of its large moons – Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa – to see if they could indeed harbor life in their interiors. Late last month (Feb. 25th), the first instrument that will fly aboard JUICE and aid in these efforts was delivered and began the process of integration with the spacecraft.

Every Part of Blue Origin’s New Glenn Rocket is Gigantic, Including its Nose Cone

Massive. Enormous. Huge. Gigantic. And whatever other words you find in the thesaurus all do the job when it comes to describing Blue Origin’s New Glenn Rocket. Especially its nosecone.

Artwork Inspired by Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Artist Mik Petter has created a vibrant new piece of art based on JunoCam images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS). The piece makes use of fractals, which are recursive mathematical creations; increasingly complex patterns that are similar to each other, yet never exactly the same.

Curiosity Finds Organic Molecules That Could Have Been Produced by Life on Mars

What do coal, crude oil, and truffles have in common? Go ahead. We’ll wait.

The answer is thiophenes, a molecule that behaves a lot like benzene. Crude oil, coal, and truffles all contain thiophenes. So do a few other substances. MSL Curiosity found thiophenes on Mars, and though that doesn’t conclusively prove that Mars once hosted life, its discovery is an important milestone for the rover. Especially since truffles are alive, and oil and coal used to be, sort of.

Mars 2020’s New Name is… “Perseverance”

Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity… For decades, NASA’s robotic rovers have explored the surface of Mars looking for clues about its past and subsequent evolution. With every success and discovery, their names became part of the public discourse, infiltrating our vocabulary the same way iconic figures like Armstrong, Einstein, and Hubble did. But what of the next rover that will be sent to explore Mars this summer?

NASA has serious plans for the Mars 2020 rover, the next installment in the Mars Exploration Program after its sister-rover Curiosity. But before this mission can launch and add its impressive capabilities to the hunt for life on Mars (past and present), it needed a proper name. Thanks to Alexander Mather (a grade 7 student from Burke, Virginia), it now has one. From this day forward, the Mars 2020 rover will be known as the Perseverance rover!

The Chemicals That Make Up Exploding Stars Could Help Explain Away Dark Energy

Astronomers have a dark energy problem. On the one hand, we’ve known for years that the universe is not just expanding, but accelerating. There seems to be a dark energy that drives cosmic expansion. On the other hand, when we measure cosmic expansion in different ways we get values that don’t quite agree. Some methods cluster around a higher value for dark energy, while other methods cluster around a lower one. On the gripping hand, something will need to give if we are to solve this mystery.



Join our 836 patrons! See no ads on this site, see our videos early, special bonus material, and much more. Join us at patreon.com/universetoday

Florida s 2019 rocket launch schedule: astronauts, moon landers and mighty rockets – Orlando Sentinel

Florida’s 2019 rocket launch schedule: astronauts, moon landers and mighty rockets

The new year is ramping up to be a historic one for the private space industry as it endeavors — along with its partners at NASA — to return humans to space from the United States.

The Space Coast will be ground zero for those launches and other notable flights in 2019. Though the overall number of liftoffs will likely be lower than in 2018, when the Cape played host to 20 launches, the high-profile nature of 2019’s launch manifest is likely to bring crowds back to the region.

Private space, led by SpaceX and Boeing, will play prominent roles as the purveyors of the first crewed U.S. space flights to low-Earth orbit since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. In between, satellite, lunar lander and International Space Station resupply missions from SpaceX and United Launch Alliance will round out the year.

Mark your calendars, here are the launches coming to the Space Coast in 2019:

SpaceX

If current schedules hold, SpaceX would be the first to return astronauts to low-Earth orbit from American soil in eight years, beginning the process of easing the nation’s dependency on Russia to shuttle American astronauts to the International Space Station.

Before it can do that, though, SpaceX will have to perform a successful test flight of its Crew Dragon capsule without humans. That demo flight is scheduled for March 2 from Kennedy Space Center’s launch complex 39A. SpaceX will then perform an in-flight abort test in June.

If successful, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will then hop inside Crew Dragon for the crewed launch, now on track for July.

SpaceX is also expected to draw big crowds for the return of the Elon Musk-led company’s mighty Falcon Heavy rocket, which had its debut in the Space Coast in early 2018 to a crowd of thousands. The three-booster, 27-engine Falcon Heavy will have its two first official contracted missions from the Space Coast in early- to mid-2019.

SpaceX is currently targeting as early as March for the first Falcon Heavy mission, carrying Saudi Arabia’s Arabsat 6A, a communications satellite providing coverage to the Middle East and North Africa region. A second mission, for the Air Force’s Space Test Program 2, which would launch more than two dozen military satellites, is also expected to come this year.

Also of interest will be the company’s Falcon 9 launch of a lunar lander for private Israeli company SpaceIL. The company competed for the Google Lunar X Prize, a moon race that would have awarded $20 million to the first company that built and launched a commercial lunar lander. The competition ended without a winner.

But SpaceIL kept working toward its mission and will make good on its promise to send the first privately developed lander to the moon. The mission is scheduled for mid-February.

If successful, the lander named Beresheet — Hebrew for “in the beginning” — would spend several weeks traveling to the moon before landing and taking images and videos.

Those missions will be the high points in a major year for SpaceX, while it also performs several resupply missions to the International Space Station and satellite launches, continuing to raise its profile as a go-to launch provider.

Boeing

Boeing will get its shot at making history this year, too, with its two launches of its CST-100 Starliner astronaut capsule as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program.

The company is eyeing April for the test launch of its astronaut capsule — without crew — and May for a pad abort test from launch complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Then, in August, the company will endeavor to send astronauts Michael Fincke, Christopher J. Ferguson and Nicole Mann in a crewed launch to space. Due to unspecified medical reasons, astronaut Eric Boe, who was originally scheduled to be on the flight, was replaced by Fincke.

Following successful launches from SpaceX and Boeing, NASA will assign the two companies to crew rotation missions to the International Space Station.

United Launch Alliance

For United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, 2019 will be a year dominated largely by launches from the Space Coast.

The company has seven launches planned for the year, one of which already took off from California. A Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Jan. 19.

The next six launches will be from the Space Coast.

First in the line up is a Delta IV rocket in a medium configuration carrying a Boeing communications spacecraft for the U.S. military called 10th Wideband Global SATCOM. The launch, scheduled for March 13, will take off from complex 37 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Several other military launches are also on the manifest for ULA, including one for the Air Force’s third-generation navigation satellites for the Global Positioning System. The satellite will be the second in a series of 10 ordered by the Air Force.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the GPS satellites have better accuracy, improved anti-jamming capabilities and 25 percent longer spacecraft lifespan. The first in that series was launched by SpaceX in December 2018.

When Will Astronauts Launch From U

When Will Astronauts Launch From U.S. Soil Again?

NASA is hopeful SpaceX and Boeing will soon free the country from dependency on Russia, but delays abound.

A Soyuz spacecraft, which carries astronauts to space, sits on the launchpad at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Shamil Zhumatov / AP

In 2010, as the United States prepared to wind down the Space Shuttle program that carried Americans into orbit for three decades, NASA asked some commercial companies to start thinking about what came next. The space agency gave them a combined $50 million to design the transportation technologies of the future. Until then, NASA would pay Russia to send American astronauts to their shared home above Earth, the International Space Station.

On Wednesday, some of the people involved in this partnership convened on Capitol Hill to face lawmakers and provide an update on their progress.

On one end of the table sat Bill Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA, who gave a positive picture of the partnership, known as the Commercial Crew Program, as it’s going right now.

“This is a critical time in the program as manufacturing is in high gear, testing is being completed, and verification and validation requirements are being addressed by NASA,” he said. “The program is approximately one year away from the first crewed flights to ISS.”

On the other end of the table was Cristina Chaplain, the director at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) who has overseen multiple reviews of the Commercial Crew Program. Her testimony included some bad news on the effort to restore the country’s astronaut-launching capabilities.

SpaceX and Boeing, the two companies NASA ended up hiring to develop space transportation, may send a human crew on a test flight to the International Space Station in 2019, yes, but they would then need to undergo and pass rigorous safety tests—and the timeline for that is slipping. The companies’ contracts with NASA, established in 2014, had called for passing final certification tests in 2017. Based on a new GAO report released Wednesday, SpaceX may not get certified for regular flights to the ISS until December 2019, and Boeing until February 2020. The companies have a “considerable amount of work” to do to meet safety standards, Chaplain noted.

“Aggressive schedules and delays are not atypical for programs developing new launch vehicles or crew vehicles,” Chaplain said. “But in this case, the delays and final certification dates raise questions about whether the United States will have uninterrupted access to the space station beyond 2019.”

In between Gerstenmaier and Chaplain sat representatives for SpaceX and Boeing. Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice president, and John Mulholland, a Boeing vice president, both assured the members of Congress at the hearing that their companies would be ready to meet this demand on time.

But the GAO report suggests a different story, and Wednesday’s hearing, held by the House Subcommittee on Space, began with some sharp words from the subcommittee’s chairman about the report’s prediction of more delays.

Brian Babin, a Republican congressman from Texas, said SpaceX and Boeing are “behind schedule, may not meet safety and reliability requirements, and could even slip into cost overruns.”

“Both companies are making progress, but certainly not at the rate that was expected and not without significant challenges to safety and reliability,” Babin said. “In order to remedy these problems, NASA may seek additional funding or accept significant risks. Neither of those options is viable.”

The Commercial Crew Program has been plagued with delays since its inception. NASA’s initial target date of 2015 was pushed to 2017, and then again to mid-2018. Last week, NASA announced some more delays: Un-crewed demonstrations by both SpaceX and Boeing are now scheduled to take place in August, and crewed flights are expected to follow in November and December.

“The work completed took longer than originally planned, but many technical issues were discovered and resolved,” Gerstenmaier told the subcommittee. “This extra time that was taken in this development phase will help reduce the risk and magnitude of additional scheduled delays.”

Chaplain said SpaceX and Boeing have reported delays nine and six times, respectively, since NASA awarded them a combined $6.8 billion to work on crew transportation systems. She said both companies are currently working on addressing some safety problems. Boeing is trying to figure out how to prevent its spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, from tumbling during some mission-abort scenarios, which could threaten the safety of the crew. The company is also investigating the possibility that the spacecraft’s heat shield would damage the parachute system during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. SpaceX, meanwhile, is trying to address safety concerns from NASA safety advisory boards about fueling its Dragon spacecraft while astronauts are inside.

Right now, the United States pays between $70 million and $80 million per seat for a ride on Russian Soyuz spacecrafts to the ISS. And the government has bought a couple more rides through 2019, just in case delays of the Commercial Crew Program continue. After that, if SpaceX or Boeing still aren’t ready to fly, NASA may be out of luck. If the space agency wanted to attempt to buy seats from Russia then, it may need to wait until new Soyuz launch vehicles are assembled and built, a process that takes three years.

At some point, the race between SpaceX and Boeing to test their crew capsules becomes a race that pits the two companies, together, against time. The United States and its international partners are committed to operating the station only through 2024. If the start of regular flight operations slips even further—from late 2019 and early 2020, as GAO now predicts, into later in the 2020s—the very purpose of this effort would be at stake. NASA has already picked the astronauts that will participate in the test flights of commercial transportation systems. Should delays continue or worsen, these astronauts may find themselves all dressed up with nowhere to go.

SpaceX launch today: SpaceX launches Dragon cargo ship on three-day flight to space station – CBS News

SpaceX launches Dragon cargo ship on three-day flight to space station

Updated on: December 5, 2019 / 1:23 PM / CBS News

Taking advantage of calmer winds, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket vaulted away from the Florida coast and climbed smoothly into orbit Thursday, putting a Dragon cargo ship on course for a three-day flight to the International Space Station. On board: 5,700 pounds of supplies, research gear and holiday gifts for the crew.

It was the first of two space station supply runs in just two days as Russian engineers ready a Progress freighter for launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early Friday morning. The SpaceX Dragon is expected to reach the lab complex Sunday with the Progress following suit early Monday.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket climbs away from Cape Canaveral, boosting a Dragon cargo ship into orbit for a three-day flight to the International Space Station. Steven Young/Spaceflight Now

“It’s these kind of dynamic events that everybody looks forward to because it really is an opportunity to get some new cargo, some new tools on board and get some new science,” said Kenny Todd, a senior space station program manager at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “So we’re really excited about this particular time frame.”

Trending News ›

Delayed Wednesday by high upper-level winds, the Falcon 9 roared to life at 12:29 p.m. EST and shot away from launch complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, following a northeasterly trajectory directly into the plane of the space station’s orbit.

Two-and-a-half minutes later, the first stage fell away and descended to a touchdown on a SpaceX droneship stationed east of Jacksonville, Florida. The second stage continued the climb to orbit, releasing the Dragon cargo ship seven minutes later.

The Dragon is packed with nearly three tons of crew supplies and equipment, along with science gear and a colony of 40 rodents, including eight genetically modified “mighty mice” that are part of a study to learn more about medications that might help astronauts counteract bone and muscle loss in space.

The view from a camera on the side of the Falcon 9 rocket, showing launchpads at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s east coast. SpaceX

Also on board: an experiment sponsored by beermaker Anheuser-Busch to study the germination of barley in space and an advanced combustion experiment to shed more light on how flames propagate in microgravity.

As for Christmas gifts for the station’s four-man, two-woman crew, “I’m not sure I want to divulge anything,” Todd told reporters earlier this week. “But I think Santa’s sleigh is certified for the vacuum of space.”

With the SpaceX cargo ship on its way, the Russian space agency Roscosmos plans to launch the Progress space freighter from Kazakhstan at 4:34 a.m. Friday (12:34 p.m. local time). On board are 1,433 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water and 3,014 pounds of dry cargo.

The Dragon is expected to reach the station Sunday morning around 6 a.m., pulling up to within about 30 feet of the lab complex and then standing by while Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, operating the station’s robot arm, locks onto a grapple fixture.

From there, flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston will take over, remotely operating the arm to pull the supply ship in for berthing at the forward Harmony module’s Earth-facing port.

The Progress MS-13/74P spacecraft will reach the station Monday morning, executing an autonomous docking at the Earth-facing port of the Russian Pirs module around 5:38 a.m.

The Dragon cargo ship separates from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage, beginning a three-day trip to the International Space Station. SpaceX

The cargo ship arrivals will set the stage for a flight readiness review next week to clear Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for launch on a long-awaited unpiloted test flight to the station. Liftoff atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket currently is targeted for December 19 with a landing in New Mexico on Christmas Eve.

NASA is counting on Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules to end the agency’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz ferry ships to carry astronauts to and from the space station. NASA astronauts have not been able to launch aboard U.S. spacecraft since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011.

Boeing and SpaceX are both required to launch unpiloted test flights before initial missions with astronauts aboard. SpaceX completed an uncrewed flight to the station earlier this year, and Boeing’s upcoming mission should set the stage for both companies to launch initial piloted test flights in the first half of 2020.

First published on December 5, 2019 / 10:25 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He covered 129 space shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2’s flyby of Neptune and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of “Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia.”

Sign up for Breaking News Alerts

Be in the know. Get the latest breaking news delivered straight to your inbox.

Space calendar 2020: Rocket launches, sky events, missions – more, Space

Space calendar 2020: Rocket launches, sky events, missions & more!

LAST UPDATED March 10: These dates are subject to change, and will be updated throughout the year as firmer dates arise. Please DO NOT schedule travel based on a date you see here. Launch dates collected from NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, Spaceflight Now and others.

Watch NASA webcasts and other live launch coverage on our “Watch Live” page, and see our night sky webcasts here. Find out what’s up in the night sky this month with our visible planets guide and skywatching forecast.

Wondering what happened today in space history? Check out our “On This Day in Space” video show here!

March

March 14: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is expected to launch a fifth batch of approximately 60 satellites for the company’s Starlink broadband network in a mission designated Starlink 5. It will lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, at 9:35 a.m. EDT (1335 GMT).

March 16: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch a Glonass M navigation satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmosdrome in Russia, at 2:23 p.m. EDT (1823 GMT).

March 16: India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk. 2 (GSLV Mk.2) may launch the county’s first GEO Imaging Satellite, or GISAT 1. It is scheduled to lift off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, at 8:13 a.m. EDT (1213 GMT). The launch was postponed from March 6 due to technical problems with the rocket.

March 19: Happy Equinox! Today marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall in the Southern Hemisphere.

March 19: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite for the U.S. military. The AEHF-6 mission will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, during a 2-hour launch window that opens at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT).

March 20: The waning, crescent moon will make a close approach to Jupiter in the dawn sky. It will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 2:21 a.m. EDT (0621 GMT), and the pair will be above the southeastern horizon for a few hours before sunrise.

March 21: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch approximately 32 satellites into orbit for the OneWeb satellite constellation. The mission, called OneWeb 3, will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, at 1:07 p.m. EDT (1707 GMT).

March 23: An Arianespace Vega rocket will launch on the Small Spacecraft Mission Service, or SSMS, proof-of-concept mission carrying 42 microsatellites, nanosatellites and cubesats. The rideshare mission will lift off from the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana, at 9:51 p.m. EDT (0151 GMT on March 24). Watch it live.

March 24: New moon

March 26: Rocket Lab will launch an Electron rocket on a rideshare mission carrying three payloads for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. Also on board will be the ANDESITE CubeSat for Boston University and NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, which will study Earth’s magnetosphere and space weather, and the M2 Pathfinder satellite, a technology demonstration mission that is a collaboration between the Australian government and the University of New South Wales Canberra Space. The mission, nicknamed “Don’t Stop Me Now,” will lift off from the company’s New Zealand launch facility on the Mahia Peninsula.

March 28: The waxing, crescent moon will make a close approach to Venus in the evening sky. It will be in conjunction with Venus at 6:37 a.m. EDT (1037 GMT), and the pair will still appear close the evenings before and after. Look for them above the southwestern horizon after sunset.

March 30–April 2: The 36th annual Space Symposium takes place in Colorado Springs.

March 30: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite for Argentina. It will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, at 7:21 p.m. EDT (2321 GMT).

March 31: A Russian Proton rocket will launch the Express 80 and Express 103 communications satellites for the Russian Satellite Communication Company. It will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

March 31: Conjunction of Saturn and Mars. The Ringed Planet and the Red Planet meet up for a special conjunction in the dawn sky. Saturn will pass less than 1 degree north of Mars at 6:56 a.m. EDT (1056 GMT).

Also scheduled to launch in March (from Spaceflight Now):

  • A Chinese Long March 7A rocket will launch a satellite known as TJS 6. This will be the first flight of the Long March 7A rocket variant. It will lift off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan, China.
  • India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will launch the RISAT 2BR2 radar Earth observation satellite for the Indian Space Research Organization. It will lift off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India.

April

April 2: SpaceX’s Dragon CRS-20 cargo craft will depart the International Space Station and return to Earth. NASA will provide live coverage of its departure beginning at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), and it is scheduled to be released at 11:24 a.m. EDT (1524 GMT). The capsule will splash down in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later, but NASA will not broadcast the splashdown. Watch it live.

April 7: Super Pink Moon. The full moon of April, known as the Pink Moon, coincides with a supermoon.

April 9: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft to the International Space Station with three new Expedition 62 crewmembers: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts, Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. (Originally, cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin were slated for this flight, but they were replaced by their backup crew for “medical reasons” in February). The rocket will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Watch it live.

April 10: An Arianespace Soyuz rocket will launch the second Composante Spatiale Optique (CSO-2) military reconnaissance satellite for the French space agency CNES and DGA, the French defense procurement agency. It will lift off from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. Watch it live.

April 14: The last-quarter moon will make a close approach to Jupiter and Saturn in the dawn sky. It will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 7:05 p.m. EDT (2305 GMT), followed by a conjunction with Saturn on April 15 at 5:18 a.m. EDT (0918 GMT). Catch the trio in the morning sky, before sunrise.

April 21-22: The Lyrid meteor shower peaks.

April 22: New moon

April 25: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the 75th Progress cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. It will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Watch it live.

April 26: The waxing, crescent moon will make a close approach to Venus in the evening sky. It will be in conjunction with Venus at 11:23 a.m. EDT (1523 GMT), and the pair will still appear close the evenings before and after. Look for them above the southwestern horizon after sunset.

April 28: Shining brightly at mag -4.5, the “evening star” Venus reaches its greatest brightness of the year.

April 29: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the U.S. Air Force’s third third-generation navigation satellite, designated GPS 3 SV03, for the Global Positioning System. It will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Also scheduled to launch in April (from Spaceflight Now):

  • An Arianespace Soyuz rocket will launch the Falcon Eye 2 Earth-imaging satellite for the United Arab Emirates. It will lift off from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.
  • A Chinese Long March 5B rocket will launch on a test flight with an unpiloted prototype for China’s new human-rated crew capsule, which is designed for future human missions to the moon. This will be the first flight of a Long March 5B rocket. It will lift off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan, China.
  • India’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) will launch on its first orbital test flight from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India.

May 7: Crew Dragon Demo 2: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to take its first crewed test flight to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on board. This will be the Crew Dragon’s first test flight with astronauts on board following the uncrewed Demo-1 mission in March. It will lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

May 7: The full moon of May, also known as the Flower Moon, occurs at 6:45 a.m. EDT (1045 GMT).

May 12: See the moon, Jupiter and Saturn huddled together in the predawn sky. The waning, gibbous moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 5:41 a.m. EDT (0941 GMT), followed by a conjunction with Saturn at 2:11 p.m. EDT (1811 GMT).

May 14: The last-quarter moon will make a close approach to the Red Planet. It will be in conjunction with Mars at 10:02 p.m. EDT (0202 GMT on May 15). Look for the pair above the southeastern horizon before sunrise.

May 18: Jupiter and Saturn will make a close approach in the early morning sky. The pair will be in conjunction at 12:45 a.m. EDT (0445 GMT).

May 22: New moon

May 23: The one-day-old moon will make a close approach to Venus in the evening sky. It will be in conjunction with Venus at 10:40 p.m. EDT (0240 GMT on May 24). Look for them above the southwestern horizon just after sunset.

May 31–June 4: The 236th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society takes place in Madison, Wisconsin.

Also scheduled to launch in May (from Spaceflight Now):

  • A Japanese H-2B rocket will launch the HTV-9 cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. It will lift off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.
  • A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch the AFSPC-7 mission for the U.S. Air Force. The mission’s primary payload is the X-37B space plane, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, will fly on the program’s sixth mission (OTV-6).
  • A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch approximately 36 satellites into orbit for the OneWeb constellation of communications satellites. The mission, titled OneWeb 4, will launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia.
  • A Chinese Long March 3B rocket will launch a satellite for the country’s Beidou navigation network toward geostationary orbit. It will lift off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the country’s Sichuan Province.

June 5: A penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible from Asia, Australia, Europe and Africa. The moon will begin passing through Earth’s shadow at 1:45 p.m. EST (1745 GMT), and the eclipse will last for 3 hours and 18 minutes.

June 5: The full moon of June, known as the Strawberry Moon, occurs at 3:12 p.m. EDT (1912 GMT).

June 8: The waning, gibbous moon will form a small triangle with Jupiter and Saturn in the morning sky. It will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 1:21 p.m. EDT (1721 GMT), followed closely by a conjunction with Saturn about 9 hours later at 10:12 p.m. EDT (0212 GMT on June 9).

June 12: Just a day before reaching last quarter phase, the moon will make a close approach to Mars in the predawn sky. The pair will be in conjunction at 7:55 p.m. EDT (2355 GMT), but they will be below the horizon for skywatchers in the U.S. at that time. You can find them above the southeastern horizon for a few hours before sunrise.

June 19: The one-day-old moon will make a close approach to Venus in the evening sky. It will be in conjunction with Venus at 4:53 EDT (0853 GMT). Look for them above the eastern horizon just before sunrise.

June 20: Happy Solstice! Today marks the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of Winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

June 20: An Arianespace Vega rocket will launch the SEOSat-Ingenio Earth observation satellite and the Taranis scientific research satellite from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

June 21: An annular solar eclipse will be visible from parts of Africa and Asia.

Also scheduled to launch in June (from Spaceflight Now):

  • A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavyrocket will launch a classified spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The mission, titled NROL-44, will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

July 4: Happy Aphelion Day! Earth is farthest from the sun today.

July 4-5: A penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible from the Americas and parts of Africa and Antarctica. The moon will begin passing through Earth’s shadow on July 4 at 11:07 p.m. EST (0307 GMT on July 5), and the eclipse will last for 2 hours and 45 minutes.

July 5: The full moon of July, known as the Beaver Moon, occurs at 12:44 a.m EDT (0444 GMT). That same day, the moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 5:38 p.m. EDT (2138 GMT). The moon will also be in conjunction with Saturn on July 6 at 4:38 a.m. EDT (0838 GMT). The trio will form a small triangle in the night sky before fading into the dawn.

July 8: The “morning star” Venus is at its greatest brightness for the year, shining at magnitude -4.5 in the morning sky.

July 11: The waning, gibbous moon will make a close approach to the Red Planet in the early morning sky. It will be in conjunction with Mars at 3:38 p.m. EDT (1938 GMT).

July 14: Jupiter reaches opposition, which means the planet will appear at its biggest and brightest. This happens about once a year, when Jupiter’s position is almost directly opposite the sun in the sky. Around the same time, Jupiter will also make its closest approach to Earth.

July 17: NASA’s Mars 2020 rover launches to the Red Planet! It will lift off on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Watch it live.

July 17: The crescent moon will be in conjunction with Venus, the “morning star,” at 3:27 a.m. EDT (0727 GMT). Look for the pair above the eastern horizon before dawn.

July 20: New moon

July 20: Saturn reaches opposition, which means the planet will appear at its biggest and brightest. This happens about once a year, when Saturn’s position is almost directly opposite the sun in the sky. Around the same time, Saturn will also make its closest approach to Earth.

July 23: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the 76th Progress cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. It will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Watch it live.

July 26: The ExoMars lander, a joint effort by the European Space Agency and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, will launch to the Red Planet. It will lift off on a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Also scheduled to launch in July (from Spaceflight Now):

  • The United Arab Emirates plans to launch its first Mars orbiter, the Hope Mars Mission. It will launch from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on a Japanese H-2A rocket.
  • China plans to launch an orbiter and a small rover to Mars. The mission, called Huoxing 1, will lift off on a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan, China.

August

Aug. 1: The nearly-full moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 7:32 p.m. EDT (2332 GMT). The following morning (Aug. 2), it will be in conjunction with Saturn at 9:10 a.m. EDT (1310 GMT). Look for the trio in the evening sky.

Aug. 3: The full moon of August, known as the “Sturgeon Moon,” occurs at 11:59 a.m. EDT (1559 GMT).

Aug. 9: The waning, gibbous moon will make a close approach to the Red Planet in the early morning sky. It will be in conjunction with Mars at 4 a.m. EDT (0800 GMT).

Aug. 11-12: The Perseid meteor shower peaks.

Aug. 15: The crescent moon will be in conjunction with Venus, the “morning star,” at 9:01 a.m. EDT (1301 GMT). Look for the pair above the eastern horizon before dawn.

Aug. 18: Black Moon: The third new moon in a season with four new moons is known as a “black moon.” (A black moon can also be the second new moon in a single calendar month.)

Aug. 28/29: The waxing, gibbous moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 9:35 p.m. EDT (0235 GMT on Aug. 29). The following day, it will be in conjunction with Saturn at 12:32 p.m. EDT (1632 GMT). Look for the trio in the evening sky.

Aug. 31: Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus NG-14 cargo spacecraft will launch to the International Space Station on an Antares rocket. It will lift off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Also scheduled to launch in August (from Spaceflight Now):

  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the U.S. Air Force’s fourth third-generation navigation satellite, designated GPS 3 SV04, for the Global Positioning System. It will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

September

Sept. 1: Asteroid 2011 ES4 will make a close flyby of Earth, passing by at a safe distance of 0.0005 AU, or 46,000 miles (75,000 kilometers).

Sept. 2: The full moon of September, known as the “Harvest Moon,” occurs at 1:22 a.m. EDT (0522 GMT).

Sept. 6: The waning, gibbous moon will make a close approach to the Red Planet in the early morning sky. It will be in conjunction with Mars at 12:46 a.m. EDT (0446 GMT).

Sept. 11: Neptune is at opposition. If you have the right equipment and a sky dark enough to see it, now is the best time all year to look!

Sept. 14: The crescent moon will be in conjunction with Venus, the “morning star,” at 12:44 a.m. EDT (0444 GMT). Look for the pair above the eastern horizon before dawn.

Sept. 17: New moon

Sept. 22: Happy Equinox! At 9:15 a.m. EDT (1315 GMT), autumn arrives in the Northern Hemisphere while the Southern Hemisphere will have its first day of spring.

Sept. 25: The waxing, gibbous moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 2:48 a.m. EDT (0648 GMT). The following day, it will be in conjunction with Saturn at 4:38 p.m. EDT (2038 GMT). Look for the trio in the evening sky.

Also scheduled to launch in September (from Spaceflight Now):

  • A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch a classified spacecraft payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The mission, NROL-101, will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

October

Oct. 1: The full moon of October, known as the “Hunter’s Moon,” occurs at 5:05 p.m. EDT (2105 GMT).

Oct. 2: The waning, gibbous moon will make a close approach to the Red Planet in the early morning sky. It will be in conjunction with Mars at 11:25 a.m. EDT (0325 GMT).

Oct. 7-8: The Draconid meteor shower peaks.

Oct. 13: Mars is at opposition, which means it’s bigger and brighter than any other time of year. Look for the glowing Red Planet above the eastern horizon after sunset.

Oct. 14: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the crewed Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft to the International Space Station with members of the Expedition 65 crew: Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner and Nikolay Chub. It will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Watch it live.

Oct. 16: New moon

Oct. 21-22: The Orionid meteor shower peaks.

Oct. 22: Just a day before reaching first quarter phase, the moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 1:12 p.m. EDT (1712 GMT). That same day, it will be in conjunction with Saturn at 11:42 p.m. EDT (0324 GMT on Oct. 23). Look for the trio in the evening sky.

Oct. 29: The waxing, gibbous moon will be in conjunction with Mars at 12:16 p.m. EDT (0325 GMT). Look for the pair above the eastern horizon after sunset.

Oct. 30: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Dragon cargo resupply mission (CRS-21) to the International Space Station. It will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Watch it live.

Oct. 31: Uranus is at opposition. This is the best time of year to view the planet, as it is at its biggest and brightest. If the sky is dark enough, you may be able to spot it with your bare eyes.

Oct. 31: This month has two full moons, which means we’ll have a Blue Moon” on Halloween. The moon reaches full phase at 10:49 a.m. EDT (1449 GMT).

November

Nov. 12: The crescent moon will be in conjunction with Venus, the “morning star,” at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT). Look for the pair above the eastern horizon before dawn.

Nov. 15: New moon

Nov. 16-17: The Leonid meteor shower peaks.

Nov. 19: The waxing, crescent moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 3:57 a.m. EST (0857 GMT). Shortly afterward, it will be in conjunction with Saturn at 9:51 a.m. EST (1451 GMT). Look for the trio in the evening sky.

Nov. 25: The waxing, gibbous moon will be in conjunction with Mars at 2:46 p.m. EST (1946 GMT). Look for the pair above the eastern horizon after sunset.

Nov. 30: A penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible from the Americas, Australia and Asia. The moon will begin passing through Earth’s shadow at 2:32 a.m. EST (0732 GMT), and the eclipse will last for 4 hours and 20 minutes.

Nov. 30: The full moon of November, known as the “Beaver Moon,” occurs at 4:30 a.m. EST (0930 GMT).

Also scheduled to launch in November (from Spaceflight Now):

  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Sentinel 6A satellite (also known as Jason-CS A), a joint mission between the European Space Agency, NASA, NOAA, CNES and Eumetsat to continue recording sea level data that was previously collected by the Jason series of satellites. It will lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

December

Dec. 13-14: The Geminid meteor shower peaks.

Dec. 14: The only total solar eclipse of 2020 will cross through the southern tip of South America. The moon’s shadow will take a similar path to the one it did for the “Great South American Eclipse” of July 2, 2019.

Dec. 16/17: The waxing, crescent moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter at 11:30 p.m. EST (0430 GMT on Dec. 17). A few hours later on Dec. 17, it will be in conjunction with Saturn at 12:20 a.m. EST (0520 GMT). Look for the trio near the southwestern horizon just after sunset. .

Dec. 21: The solstice arrives at 4:47 a.m. EST (0947 GMT), marking the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Dec. 21: Jupiter and Saturn will make a close approach in the evening sky. The pair will be in conjunction at 8:24 a.m. EST (1324 GMT).

Dec. 21-22: The Ursid meteor shower peaks.

Dec. 23: The waxing, gibbous moon will be in conjunction with Mars at 1:31 p.m. EST (1831 GMT). Look for the pair above the eastern horizon after sunset.

Dec. 29: The full moon of December, also known as the Cold Moon, occurs at 10:28 p.m. EST (0328 GMT).

Also scheduled to launch in December (from Spaceflight Now):

  • A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the 77th Progress cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. It will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.