SpaceX is launching a Dragon cargo ship for NASA tonight

SpaceX is launching a Dragon cargo ship for NASA tonight. Here’s how to watch live.

Liftoff is at 11:50 p.m. EST (0450 GMT on March 7).

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX will launch its 20th Dragon cargo mission for NASA tonight (March 6) and you can watch it all live online.

The private spaceflight company will use a veteran Falcon 9 rocket to launch the uncrewed cargo craft from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST (0450 GMT on Saturday). Tucked inside the Dragon is more than 4,300 lbs. (1,950 kg) of supplies bound for the International Space Station.

You can watch the launch live here on, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning at about 11:35 p.m. EST (0435 GMT). You can also watch the launch directly from SpaceX here, or from NASA here. NASA’s webcast will begin at 11:30 p.m. EST (0430 GMT).

The mission marks the final flight for SpaceX under its first commercial resupply services contract with NASA. The contract, which was signed in 2008, was valued at $1.6 billion and covered a series of Dragon flights delivering a minimum of 44,000 lbs. (20,000 kg) of cargo to the space station.

Today’s flight will mark the final time this version of the Dragon spacecraft will fly; future resupply missions will feature SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon 2 capsule. The first of those flights is expected to launch in October 2020.

The human-rated version of the Dragon 2 craft, also known as Crew Dragon, made its debut one year ago as it flew to the International Space Station as part of a demonstration mission (called Demo-1) for upcoming crewed flights. In 2014, SpaceX and Boeing snagged a coveted launch contract collectively worth $6.8 billion to each build a spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts to the space station and back.

Both versions (crewed and uncrewed) of the upgraded Dragon will launch from Pad 39A, a switch from current launch procedures that utilized Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to send the cargo capsules into orbit.

According to company officials, the current version of Dragon can fly up to three times, whereas the upgraded version can fly as many as five times. SpaceX will also be changing up its recovery operations for future cargo missions, and scooping the Dragon out of the Atlantic. (Currently, Dragon splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.) The switch will allow for faster processing times.

Dragon 2 also comes with some different skills than its predecessor. Now, instead of berthing with the station via robotic arm, Dragon will be able to dock itself to the orbital outpost. As part of the Demo-1 mission last year, Dragon was tasked with proving it could autonomously dock and undock itself with the station.

Following that successful test, SpaceX demonstrated that the capsule’s built-in launch escape system performed as expected and could keep astronauts safe in the event of an emergency during flight.

That step, which took place earlier this year, was the last major hurdle the company needed to clear before it could launch people. The next flight of the Crew Dragon is expected to happen as early as May. Two astronauts — Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — will fly to the space station as part of the Demo-2 mission. NASA is still trying to determine how long their stay might be.

Weather conditions are predicted to be 60% favorable for Friday night’s launch attempt, according to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, which performs weather assessments for space launches. (Currently, the primary concern is strong liftoff winds.)

Clear skies are predicted around liftoff, which should provide onlookers with a clear view of the launch and the landing. For this launch, SpaceX is attempting to recover the first stage booster at its landing zone at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX s latest Starship test was uneventful and that s great news for its flight debut

SpaceX’s latest Starship test was uneventful and that’s great news for its flight debut

According to Elon Musk, SpaceX has successfully completed its latest Starship prototype test in a uniquely uneventful fashion, great news for the next-generation rocket’s next steps and first flight tests.

The SpaceX CEO revealed the news some 12 hours after the company wrapped up the Starship tank test at its Boca Chica, Texas facilities. Another excellent example of SpaceX’s preferred process of agile development, the test followed just nine days after the Starship SN01 prototype’s first cryogenic test unexpectedly unearthed a design flaw. SpaceX analyzed the results of Starship SN01’s unintentional launch debut and drew up plans to rapidly repurpose a Starship tank initially destined for the SN02 prototype.

By using existing hardware to test an upgraded iteration of the part that destroyed Starship SN01, SpaceX has now effectively retired the risk posed by that prior failure less than two weeks after it occurred. Elon Musk specifically noted that the former SN02 engine section “passed cryo pressure & engine thrust loads,” confirming that there was more to the exceptionally uneventful evening of March 8th than met the eye. While putting on much less of a show for local observers, this particular boring test is a great sign for the next few steps of SpaceX’s Starship development program.

SN2 (with thrust puck) passed cryo pressure & engine thrust load tests late last night

Simply put, despite successfully demonstrating that Starship’s improved “thrust puck” and engine section can survive flight-level tank pressures and the thrust of a Raptor engine, one would be hard-pressed to determine as much by inspecting the prototype that managed the feat. Such a visually uneventful test is a first for SpaceX’s post-Starhopper Starship testing, where “before” and “after” photos typically start with a shiny tank and finish with a well-distributed field of steel shrapnel.

Starship SN01 before… (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal) …and after its unintentional February 28th test flight. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal) The Starship SN02 test tank, on the other hand, has quite clearly not burst into shrapnel after its March 8th pressure and load test. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)

Musk’s description of the test suggests that SpaceX’s intention with the SN02 test tank – built in just two weeks – was to stress it up to (and likely beyond) the pressures and mechanical stresses Starship engine sections will need to survive in flight. In simpler terms, they likely tried to burst the tank by pressurizing it with liquid nitrogen, a supercool cryogenic fluid. It’s unclear exactly how far SpaceX pushed the tank, but it’s safe to say that it went at least as high as past test tanks, meaning 7-8.5 bar or 100-125 psi. At a bare minimum, a test that failed to reach Starship’s minimum flight pressure of 6 bar (90 psi) would be of dubious value for the actual orbital ship.

A step further, SpaceX installed a hydraulic jack underneath the test tank in a bid to simulate the stresses it would experience with a single Raptor engine. Capable of producing approximately 150-200 tons (1500-2000 kN) of thrust, even Raptor is relatively minor compared to the Starship tank’s likely

500 metric ton (1.1 million lb) mass. Still, the fact that the SN02 test tank survived the combination of a highly pressurized tank and the simulated thrust of a Raptor engine suggests that SpaceX is now ready for a more successful repeat of Starship SN01 testing.

Static fire & short flights with SN3, longer flights with SN4, but spooling up the whole Starship/Raptor production line is really what matters

Confirming those suspicions, Musk subsequently revealed that the Starship prototype integrated immediately after the SN02 test tank will likely attempt the first Raptor static fire tests and may even perform short flights further down the road. As always, SpaceX’s testing programs are fluid and likely to change as new results continuously shape the path forward, meaning that Starship SN03 could easily be destroyed during testing. Starship SN04, said by Musk to be the hopeful candidate for “longer [test] flights,” would thus be repurposed to continue SN03’s test campaign — and so on with SN05, SN06, and beyond.

Regardless, as the CEO notes, perhaps the most important aspect of all these rapid-fire tests is that SpaceX is quickly building up an impressive Starship production line. Before, during, and after SN02’s test campaign, SpaceX’s South Texas team has been simultaneously fabricating and stacking new steel rings, bulkheads, and noses for the next few Starship prototypes. As a result, Starship SN03’s tank section could be just a week or two away from complete integration, after which SpaceX will likely transport it to the launch pad to prepare for Raptor static fire testing.

Check out Teslarati’s newsletters for prompt updates, on-the-ground perspectives, and unique glimpses of SpaceX’s rocket launch and recovery processes.

CRS-20 – Final Dragon 1 arrives at the ISS

CRS-20 – Final Dragon 1 arrives at the ISS

Following its ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Friday, the company’s CRS-20 Dragon cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station on Monday. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida occurred at 11:50 pm Eastern time (04:50 UTC), prior to berthing at the ISS early on Monday.

This launch began the month-long CRS-20 mission, which will see the Dragon spacecraft deliver more than 4,300 pounds (1,950 kilograms) of supplies and science to the space station before returning to Earth with the results of multiple scientific experiments conducted, along with some surplus hardware.

The CRS-20 mission is being flown as part of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program, which uses commercially-built vehicles to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. SpaceX was awarded a contract for twelve initial CRS missions in 2008, with a later extension increasing the number of flights to twenty.

The first iteration of SpaceX’s Dragon has successfully flown twenty missions to the ISS to date: a demonstration flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, and nineteen operational CRS flights. The CRS-7 mission, which launched in June 2015, failed to reach the station after its Falcon 9 launcher disintegrated on ascent.

CRS-20 is the last flight of the first-generation Dragon spacecraft, with the cargo version of the upgraded Dragon 2 spacecraft expected to take over services next year as part of Phase 2 of the CRS program, also known as CRS2.

Artistic render of Dragon 2 approaching the ISS for docking – credit: Nathan Koga for NSF/L2

New contracts for the CRS2 program were announced in 2016, with SpaceX’s Dragon and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft selected to continue delivering cargo to the station. Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spaceplane was added to the program to provide additional services.

The first version of Dragon is equipped to carry both pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the International Space Station – the former within the recoverable capsule and the latter being housed in the spacecraft’s aft trunk section. Dragon provides a unique capability to return cargo and hardware to Earth, whereas all other uncrewed cargo delivery spacecraft currently servicing the station are not built to withstand reentry. Only the pressurized capsule is recovered during CRS missions (Dragon’s trunk will be destroyed when it reenters Earth’s atmosphere at mission end).

The Dragon capsule was also designed to be reusable, and can be reused for up to three missions. CRS-20 will mark the third flight for spacecraft C112, which flew to the International Space Station in February 2017 and December 2018 as part of the CRS-10 and CRS-16 missions.

Dragon C112 approaches the ISS during the CRS-10 mission – credit: NASA

This mission also marks the fastest turnaround time for a Dragon capsule since its last flight, with only 14 months between C112’s second splashdown in January 2019 and its third launch.

In total, the CRS-20 Dragon vehicle carries 4,358 pounds (1,977 kilograms) to the International Space Station, with 3,326 pounds (1,509 kilograms) being transported in the pressurized capsule. This includes 602 pounds (273 kilograms) of crew supplies, 123 pounds (53 kilograms) of equipment required to support future spacewalks, 483 pounds (219 kilograms) of vehicle hardware, a single kilogram of computer equipment, and 2,116 pounds (960 kilograms) of scientific experiments.

Dragon’s unpressurized trunk contains the Bartolomeo research platform, which was developed by Airbus Defense and Space and will be operated with the support of the European Space Agency (ESA). Bartolomeo will be mounted on the forward-facing side of the European Columbus module, and will offer thirteen payload sites – twelve being active and one remaining passive – to host external commercial scientific payloads and experiments.

About to be launch on March, 6th, with @NASA’s CRS-20 mission, #Bartolomeo will provide exceptional information about the Earth.
Stay tuned to follow the launch in the Dragon #ISS cargo supply vehicle.

Eight of these active payload sites, along with the passive site, are provided through interfaces that are directly mounted on the Bartolomeo platform, while the four additional active sites are provided in a chain-link configuration. These sites also have the capability to combine two external payloads into one double payload. Bartolomeo’s avionics system is able to provide power and data management, payload commanding, flight environment determination functions, and temporary data storage to multiple payloads that will be installed on the platform.

The CRS-20 Dragon’s ride to space was the workhorse two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, which utilized a flight-proven first stage. The booster itself, B1059.2, previously supported the launch of the CRS-19 Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station in December 2019.

The booster landed on the autonomous spaceport droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed 213 miles (343 kilometers, 185 nautical miles) off the coast of Florida. The use of the droneship for the CRS-19 mission, rather than utilizing a return-to-launch-site (RTLS) landing profile with a touchdown at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1), was chosen because of SpaceX’s decision to perform additional thermal tests on Falcon 9’s second stage after spacecraft separation.

Following its successful landing on Of Course I Still Love You, the first stage was transported back to Cape Canaveral, where it underwent refurbishment. SpaceX conducted a static fire test of this booster at Space Launch Complex 40 on Sunday, March 1st, as is customary for all Falcon 9 missions.

The booster was then rolled back into the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at SLC-40, where the CRS-20 Dragon spacecraft and its payloads were integrated. The entire stack was then rolled out to the pad and lifted vertical ahead of its launch at 11:50 pm local time on Friday (04:50 UTC on Saturday).

The countdown on launch day officially commenced when SpaceX began loading supercooled, densified RP-1 fuel into both stages of the Falcon 9 rocket at T-35 minutes before liftoff. First stage liquid oxygen (LOX) loading also got underway at this time.

Liquid oxygen loading on the second stage began at the T-16 minute mark. Both stages continued to be topped off until the final minutes of the countdown, replacing any liquid oxygen that is boiled off and vented from the launcher.

The Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft transitioned to internal power – in which both vehicles began to use internal battery power rather than using pad connections – in the last ten minutes before launch. The strongback (the structure that supports Falcon 9 and Dragon during the countdown) began to rotate about 1.5 degrees away from the rocket at the T-4 minute and 30 second mark, and remained in that position until liftoff.

Absolutely unreal sunset lighting for remote setup at SLC-40 this evening. SpaceX is poised to launch the final first gen Cargo Dragon tonight at 11:50 pm est. on a resupply mission to the ISS. I placed two cameras at the launch pad, cross your fingers they work! @NASASpaceflight

At T-60 seconds before launch, Falcon 9 ensured startup mode, in which the rocket’s onboard computers took over control of the countdown and began conducting final checks on all systems before flight. Falcon 9’s tanks were also brought up to flight pressure at this point. SpaceX’s Launch Director then gave a “go” for launch at T-45 seconds.

At the T-3 second mark, Falcon 9’s nine Merlin-1D first stage engines ignited, with liftoff occurring at T-0 following a quick check to ensure that the engines are performing as expected.

Falcon 9 passed through the area of maximum aerodynamic pressure, or “Max-Q”, at T+1 minute and 18 seconds into the flight. This is the point during launch where the vehicle experiences the highest levels of stress due to aerodynamic conditions.

Meanwhile, Falcon 9’s first stage engines continued to burn up until the T+2 minute and 18 second mark, where all nine engines shut down simultaneously in an event known as Main Engine Cutoff, or MECO.

The second stage separated from the first stage four seconds later, with the Merlin Vacuum engine igniting at T+2 minutes and 29 seconds.
After separation, core B1059.2 fliped itself around and performed a short burn – a boostback burn – to propel itself back towards Cape Canaveral for a return-to-launch-site landing at Landing Zone 1. Following the completion of this burn, the titanium grid fins used to control the booster though descent deployed.

At about 6 minutes and 32 seconds into the flight, B1059.2 once again ignited its engines to conduct its entry burn, which is done to reduce velocity and limit heating as it passes through the denser regions of the atmosphere.

Once this burn was complete, the booster continued to descend towards Landing Zone 1, with the final landing burn and touchdown taking place just over eight minutes after liftoff.

Falcon 9 B1059.2 has landed at LZ-1.

That’s SpaceX’s 50th landing! Congrats to all concerned!

Meanwhile, Falcon 9’s second stage continued to carry Dragon to orbit. The Merlin Vacuum engine burned for six minutes and six seconds, with Second Engine Cutoff (SECO) occurring at the T+8 minute and 35 second mark.

One minute after SECO, the Dragon spacecraft separated from the second stage and began its mission. Dragon’s solar arrays, which are mounted on the unpressurized trunk section, deployed at just over 12 minutes into the flight. The spacecraft’s Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) bay door opened at T+2 hours and 19 minutes, enabling data downlink and uplink from SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California.

In the days following launch, Dragon performed a series of maneuvers to prepare for a rendezvous with the International Space Station on Monday morning. Upon arrival at the orbiting outpost, the spacecraft was grappled by the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm and berthed to the nadir – or Earth-facing – port of the US Harmony module.

Canadarm2 prepares to grapple Dragon C112 as part of the CRS-16 mission – credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir performed the capture operation, with fellow NASA astronaut Drew Morgan assisting. While berthed at the station, Dragon’s pressurized cargo will be unloaded and then loaded with returning hardware, including several rodent research habitats.

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Dragon is expected to remain at the International Space Station until April, at which point it will be unberthed using Canadarm2 and released. The spacecraft will then depart the vicinity of the station and deorbit itself, separating its trunk section before reentering and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean under its parachutes.

The CRS-20 mission was the fifth of the year for SpaceX, with four of them being orbital launches. The lone exception was the in-flight abort test of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which took place in January. This test was done in preparation for the first crewed Crew Dragon demonstration flight to and from the International Space Station, known as Demo-2 or DM-2. SpaceX and NASA are currently working towards a launch no earlier than May of this year.

The company’s next launch is slated for no earlier than March 14, with a Falcon 9 lofting another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Launch Complex 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Another Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch the CONAE-built SAOCOM-1B spacecraft on a polar trajectory from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40 at the end of the month.

SpaceX’s first mission for the CRS2 program, CRS-21, is currently scheduled for late October, with Northrop Grumman launching a Cygnus mission ahead of it in early August.

Momentus to offer last-miles service from SpaceX rideshare flights

Momentus to offer last-miles service from SpaceX rideshare flights

SAN FRANCISCO – Momentus purchased rides on five SpaceX Falcon 9 smallSat rideshare missions in 2020 and 2021 to showcase the ability of its Vigoride in-space transportation vehicle to move customer satellites 300 to 1,200 kilometers beyond the drop-off point, the Santa Clara, California, company announced March 9.

“We hope to show that ridesharing from the Falcon 9 will be a game-changer,” Momentus CEO Mikhail Kokorich said in a statement. “By ferrying payloads to multiple orbits from a single launch, we multiply the capability of an already impressive system that has revolutionized access to space.”

Prior to the launches, Momentus will mount multiple customer satellites weighing a total of 350 kilograms or less on Vigoride space transportation vehicles. After separation with the Falcon 9, Vigorides will deliver each satellite to its intended orbit and altitude, company officials said.

“We are excited to continue our work with Momentus to offer small satellite operators reliable and cost-efficient rides to space,” Tom Ochinero, SpaceX vice president of commercial sales, said in a statement.

Momentus Vigoride shuttle with 32 three-unit cubesats and two micro satellites attached. Credit Momentus

Momentus offers two services. Shuttle flights from rocket drop-off points to popular destinations and charter flights for customers whose intended destinations are not served by shuttle flights.

Momentus plans to offer Vigoride service on quarterly launches in 2021. More than a dozen customers are currently booked across the various missions, Dawn Harms, Momentus chief revenue officer, said by email.

Many customers are looking to Vigoride to offer last-mile delivery for cubesats but Momentus is serving microsatellite customers as well, Harms said. “We will continue to add customers until six months before launch,” she added.

Customers already signed up for the 2020 and 2021 Vigoride shuttle flights include U.K. startup Steamjet Space Systems, NuSpace of Singapore and Aurora Propulsion Technologies of Finland.

Additional customers have signed up for Momentus charter flights from the Falcon 9 drop-off to other destinations. Charter customers include C3S Electronics Development of Hungary and Spacemanic of Slovakia, a spinoff of the Slovak Organisation for Space Activities, a nongovernmental group that promotes space research and technology.

Initially, Momentus advertised Vigoride payload capacity of 250 kilograms. Since then, Vigoride payload capacity is now as high as 350 kilograms because the vehicle was redesigned to fit ESPA Grande Ports.

ESPA is the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter. ESPA Grande is a version of the payload adapter to accommodate larger, heavier satellites.

SpaceX expands space tourism with flight in astronaut capsule – Los Angeles Times

SpaceX’s new space tourism offer: 5-day flight in Crew Dragon capsule

Wealthy tourists have flown to the International Space Station and marveled at the curvature of the Earth from 250 miles above the planet’s surface.

Soon, well-off individuals could get an even better view of the planet. A space tourism company is partnering with SpaceX to offer a mission lasting up to five days aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that could take tourists higher into space than private citizens have ever gone before.

The mission could put tourists into orbit about 850 miles above the surface of the Earth — the same height reached by the crew of NASA’s Gemini XI capsule in 1966. The farther a spacecraft gets from the Earth, the wider the view of the planet below, noted Tom Shelley, the president of Space Adventures.

Space Adventures said Tuesday that the mission, which could fly as many as four people, would enable tourists to “see planet Earth the way no one has since the Gemini program.” NASA’s Gemini program was a precursor to the Apollo moon program and helped the agency learn about the effects of extended spaceflight on humans.

The Crew Dragon capsule is outfitted with three windows and snugly fits four seats. Riders would need to undergo astronaut training before their trip.

There’s still a lot to be determined about a tourist flight aboard the Crew Dragon. The mission could launch as early as next year, though 2022 is more likely, Shelley said. And the company is still gauging interest in such a mission.

“We’ll see if we’re able to identify enough clients who are prepared to commit,” Shelley said. “This is a first foray into the market. . Our hope is that flights like this become a regular occurrence in the future.”

The Vienna, Va., company is not disclosing the exact price per tourist because it depends on a variety of factors, including how many people decide to sign up.

Shelley said that tourists would pay tens of millions of dollars and that the price was in the same range as other orbital space tourism missions. (Last year, NASA estimated a tourist flight to the space station would cost $58 million per person.)

The price is likely to limit the number of interested customers. Because of that, SpaceX probably won’t count on this as a major revenue stream, said Janice Starzyk, vice president of commercial space at analytics and engineering firm Bryce Space and Technology.

“I don’t think that the market here is big enough to really make a big dent in their operations, considering what else they’re working on,” she said of SpaceX. “It’s a nice service to offer, but I don’t think it’s a core part of their business.”

Other space tourism firms have reached a broader base of potential customers by offering shorter, less expensive trips that aim for a lower altitude: suborbital space.

Virgin Galactic, owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, has taken deposits of up to $250,000 from hundreds of people who are interested in riding the company’s space plane to 50 miles above the Earth, where they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness.

Blue Origin, founded by Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, plans to ferry tourists to suborbital space in its New Shepard capsule and rocket system, though the company has not yet released pricing.

With the suborbital market, “you’re talking about a much smaller time commitment, a much lower cost,” Starzyk said. “It’s a whole different game.”

Space Adventures would lead bookings and help customers figure out mission details. Hawthorne-based SpaceX would be in charge of astronaut training, as well as launching and landing the capsule and monitoring it during the mission.

SpaceX is already doing training sessions for NASA astronauts as the company prepares to use its Crew Dragon capsule to transport them to the International Space Station. Its first such mission is planned for this year.

The company developed the capsule under a NASA contract worth up to $2.6 billion and recently reached its last major milestone — a test of the spacecraft’s emergency escape system — before its first crewed flight.

“A lot of people have been waiting for the day that private citizens can fly on a SpaceX Dragon,” Shelley said. “They’ve been watching over the last decade as SpaceX has built up their flight heritage.”

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement that the mission would “forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it.”

SpaceX has previously indicated interest in space tourism. In 2018, it announced that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa would be the first paying customer to travel around the moon in SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft, which is still under development.

Space Adventures, founded in 1998, has previously booked a handful of private astronauts on trips to the space station via Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.

The company has not yet determined how long astronauts would need to train for the Crew Dragon mission, but it would be less than the five-month duration needed for the company’s tourist trips to the space station because the Soyuz capsule and the space station are both more complicated to operate than the Crew Dragon capsule, Shelley said.

The Crew Dragon has touchscreens and is much more automated than NASA’s space shuttle, which had 2,000 switches and circuit breakers.

SpaceX launches the last flight of its original Dragon cargo capsule – The Verge

SpaceX launches the last flight of its original Dragon cargo capsule

Don’t worry, Dragon 2 will be here soon

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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, sending the final Dragon 1 spacecraft into orbit. NASA/Kim Shiflett

Late last night, SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket on the company’s 20th cargo mission to the International Space Station, sending more than 4,500 pounds of supplies and science experiments to the three crew members living in orbit. Following takeoff, SpaceX then landed its Falcon 9 on a landing pad in Florida — the 50th overall rocket landing for the company.

While it was a fairly routine launch for the company, it was also a significant one: the final resupply mission for NASA under SpaceX’s original contract with the space agency. That doesn’t mean SpaceX will be done launching supplies to the ISS, though. In 2016, NASA awarded SpaceX a second contract to continuing launching cargo missions to the station through 2024. And once this new round of launches begins, SpaceX’s hardware will get an upgrade too. The company has long used its Dragon 1 cargo capsule to carry all the supplies to the ISS, but now, SpaceX will begin using its new Dragon 2 capsule.

This new Dragon capsule is very similar to the one that SpaceX will use to send people to the space station later this year. It’s slightly bigger than its predecessor, able to carry about 20 percent more volume than before, and it can be re-used up to five times in space. Each Dragon 1 spacecraft could only be used up to three times. Plus it sports quite a few upgrades, including an entirely new parachute system. “We learned a lot on the Dragon 1 spacecraft,” Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, said during a press conference ahead of the launch. “We put all the lessons learned basically in Dragon 2 as much as we could.”

Perhaps the biggest new feature of Dragon 2 is that it will be able to dock all on its own with the International Space Station. All of the previous Dragon cargo capsules had to have some help to get to the ISS. Each vehicle approached the station and an astronaut on board had to capture the capsule with a robotic arm. The arm would then bring the Dragon closer to the ISS and attach it onto a docking port. But from now on, both crew and cargo versions of Dragon will be able to approach the station and dock by themselves, freeing up time for the astronauts on board the ISS.

SpaceX is expected to fly this new cargo Dragon capsule sometime in the fall. In the meantime, the final Dragon 1 launched last night is orbiting Earth and will meet up with the International Space Station early Monday morning. When it is attached to the ISS, it’ll bring various supplies and experiments, including a system to study organs on microchips. Dragon is also bringing a new European platform that will be attached on the outside of the ISS, allowing research institutions and companies to attach their own payloads on the exterior of the station.

This Dragon will stay attached to the ISS for about a month, before returning to Earth. When it leaves, it’ll be loaded up with 4,000 pounds of cargo to be returned to the ground. After the vehicle splashes down in the ocean, the era of Dragon 1 will be over. “Dragon 1 had a great career and we’re really proud at how it contributed to the important science aboard the ISS,” Koenigsmann said. In fact, SpaceX’s Dragon made history in 2012, by becoming the first private vehicle to attach the ISS ever.

“We’re grateful for NASA for the ongoing support, and we’re looking forward to the continued success of Dragon,” said Koenigsmann.

Correction March 7th, 11:30AM ET: A previous version of this story misstated the location of the Falcon 9 landing last night. It landed on a landing pad.

Max Q: SpaceX gets ready for first human flight – TechCrunch

Max Q: SpaceX gets ready for first human flight

This week turned out to be a surprisingly busy one in space news — kicked off by the Trump administration’s FY 2021 budget proposal, which was generous to U.S. space efforts both in science and in defense.

Meanwhile, we saw significant progress in SpaceX’s commercial crew program, and plenty of activity among startups big and small.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon arrives in Florida

The spacecraft that SpaceX will use to fly astronauts for the first time is now in Florida, at its launch site for final preparations before it takes off. Currently, this Crew Dragon mission is set to take place sometime in early May, and though that may still shift, it’s looking more and more likely it’ll happen within the next few months.

NASA taps Rocket Lab for Moon satellite launch

Rocket Lab will play a key role in NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to get humans back to the surface of the Moon by 2024. NASA contracted Rocket Lab to launch its CAPSTONE CubeSat to a lunar orbit in 2021, using Rocket Lab’s new Proton combined satellite and long-distance transportation stage.

Astronomers continue to sound the alarm about constellations

Starlink satellites streak through a telescope’s observations.

Astronomers and scientists that rely on observing the stars from Earth are continuing to warn about the impact on stellar observation from constellations that are increasingly dotting the night sky.

Meanwhile, SpaceX just launched another 60 satellites for its Starlink constellation, bringing the total on orbit to 300. SpaceX founder Elon Musk says that the “albedo” or reflectivity of satellites will drop “significantly” going forward, however.

Blue Origin is opening its new rocket factory

Blue Origin is opening its new rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, Ala. on Monday. The new site will be responsible for high-volume production of the Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine, which will be used on the company’s own New Glenn orbital rocket as well as the ULA’s forthcoming Vulcan heavy-lift launch vehicle.

Virgin Galactic’s first commercial spacecraft moves to its spaceport

Virgin Galactic is getting closer to actually flying its first paying space tourists — it just moved its SpaceShipTwo “VSS Unity” vehicle from its Mojave manufacturing site to its spaceport in New Mexico, which is where tourists will board for their short trips to the edge of outer space.

Astranis raises $90 million

Satellite internet startup Astranis has raised a $90 million Series B funding round, which includes a mix of equity ($40 million) and debt facility ($50 million). The company will use the money to get its first commercial satellites on orbit as it aims to build a next-generation geostationary internet satellite business.

Astroscale will work with JAXA on an orbital debris-killing system

Orbital debris is increasingly a topic of discussion at events and across the industry, and Japanese startup Astroscale is one of the first companies dedicated to solving the problem. The startup has been tapped by JAXA for a mission that will seek to de-orbit a spent rocket upper stage, marking one of the first efforts to remove a larger piece of orbital debris.

Register for TC Sessions: Space 2020

Our very own dedicated space event is coming up on June 25 in Los Angeles, and you can get your tickets now. It’s sure to be a packed day of quality programming from the companies mentioned above and more, so go ahead and sign up while Early-Bird pricing applies.

Plus, if you have a space startup of your own, you can apply now to participate in our pre-event pitch-off, happening June 24.

SpaceX Lands 50th Rocket in 5 Years: NPR

SpaceX Successfully Lands 50th Rocket In 5 Years

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying more than 4,300 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the International Space Station launches from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is the final flight of SpaceX’s first-generation Dragon cargo capsule. SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett hide caption

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying more than 4,300 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the International Space Station launches from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is the final flight of SpaceX’s first-generation Dragon cargo capsule.

SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

SpaceX launched another cargo mission to the International Space Station Friday, successfully landing the flight’s rocket booster for the 50th time in the last five years, the Associated Press reported.

The commercial rocket company sent its “Dragon” capsule from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station for its 20th ISS resupply mission, according to a press release from SpaceX. The spacecraft is carrying more than two tons of equipment and experiments. It’s expected to arrive at the space station Monday.

Falcon 9 launches the final mission of the first version of Dragon

The rocket lifted off to a countdown and cheers from an audience at SpaceX’s headquarters in California, but the largest cheers came for the successful landing of the rocket’s first-stage booster. After falling away from the Dragon capsule, the “Falcon 9” touched back down on the landing pad, amid flashes of bright light and smoke.

“And the Falcon has landed for the 50th time in SpaceX history!” announced lead engineer Jessica Anderson on a livestream from SpaceX HQ.

The night’s windy conditions were a new challenge for the spacecraft. In a tweet, SpaceX co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said the launch was an “intentional envelope expansion.”

Rocket will land in highest winds ever at Cape Canaveral tonight. This is intentional envelope expansion.

Shortly after the booster’s successful landing, Musk tweeted, “Envelope expanded.”

This was not the first launch for either part of the rocket. The Falcon 9 booster, which returned to land to be used again, was last flown in December 2019. The Dragon capsule has flown twice, once in 2017 and once in 2018, according to SpaceX.

This was the last mission for the first version of the Dragon spacecraft, which began space travel in 2012, said Anderson. SpaceX says the next version of the capsule will be capable of flying people in addition to cargo, and will fly with NASA astronauts later this year.

Since its first mission in 2012 – when it became the first private spacecraft to visit the @space_station – Dragon has spent over 520 days attached to the orbiting laboratory, delivered over 95,000 pounds of cargo, and returned over 76,000 pounds back to Earth

The company puts an emphasis on creating rapidly reusable rockets. Its goal is to reduce the cost of space travel, and to eventually make the practice as accessible as modern air travel.

“To date, we’ve had 80 successful launches of Falcon 9, and 30 out of that 80 were on re-flown boosters,” Anderson said.

In the 4,000-plus pounds of cargo headed to the space station are more than 20 experiments sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory at the International Space Station, according to a press release.

Among them is an Adidas shoe material experiment, which will test the motion of its foam “Boost particles” in a low-gravity environment. The shoe company announced a partnership with the ISS U.S. National Laboratory in November of last year.

Another experiment is Delta Faucet’s test of water droplet formation in micro-gravity conditions for the company’s H2Okinetic shower head, which seeks to conserve water by controlling the size and speed of droplets.

From Procter and Gamble to Budweiser, many well-known companies leverage the unique conditions on the National Lab to improve consumer products people use daily. Now, Delta Faucet Company is going to space to improve your shower on Earth.
Learn more here:

Other experiments include tests to better 3-D printing in space and advance drug development.

SpaceX Dragon cargo ship reaches space station in milestone flight – CBS News

SpaceX Dragon cargo ship reaches space station in milestone flight

March 9, 2020 / 9:44 AM / CBS News

A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship loaded with 2.2 tons of supplies and equipment caught up with the International Space Station early Monday and then stood by while astronaut Jessica Meir, operating the lab’s robot arm, locked onto a grapple fixture to wrap up a flawless rendezvous.

It was the 20th and final flight of Dragon capsule under SpaceX’s initial resupply contract with NASA and the last to be captured by the robot arm as the California rocket-builder transitions to a second-generation spacecraft that will fly itself in for docking starting later this year.

“The SpaceX 20 mission is a milestone,” Meir radioed after the spacecraft’s capture at 6:25 a.m. EDT. “It is, of course, the 20th SpaceX cargo mission, but it is also the last SpaceX cargo vehicle captured by the Canada arm as future vehicles will automatically dock to the space station. . Congratulations to SpaceX and all of the ISS partner teams involved.”

A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship launched Friday from Cape Canaveral caught up with the International Space Station early Monday and was captured by the lab’s robot arm. NASA TV

Launched late Friday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Dragon spacecraft executed a textbook rendezvous with the station, bringing a bounty of needed crew supplies, science gear and space station equipment, including a European Space Agency experiment platform that will be attached to ESA’s Columbus lab module.

Trending News ›

Packed inside the Dragon’s pressurized cabin were 2,116 pounds of research material and experiment hardware, 123 pounds of spacewalk equipment, 483 pounds of space parts and other station gear and 602 pounds of crew supplies.

“Some of the things the astronauts can be looking forward to include some candy and olives, salami as well as fresh food like grapefruit, orange(s), apples and even fresh garlic,” said Leah Cheshier, NASA’s mission control commentator.

SpaceX launched the first Dragon flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program in 2012. The company’s initial CRS-1 contract, now valued at just over $3 billion, ultimately was extended to 20 flights, delivering more than 94,000 pounds of cargo. NASA later awarded a follow-on contract for additional missions through 2024.

A little less than two hours after capture, the station’s robot arm pulled the Dragon in for berthing at a port on the Earth-facing side of the lab’s forward Harmony module. NASA TV

Those flights will be carried out by reusable Dragon capsules based on the design of SpaceX’s astronaut ferry ships. Equipped with the same propulsion, navigation and control systems, the next-generation Dragons will be able to fly themselves all the way in for docking without requiring use of the station’s robot arm.

Northrop Grumman also holds CRS contracts to deliver supplies to the space station using the company’s Cygnus cargo ships and the company has carried out 13 cargo runs to date. But only the Dragon is capable of returning equipment and research samples to Earth — some 74,000 pounds worth going into the current mission.

The CRS-20 Dragon that arrived Monday is expected to remain at the station for 28 days. After unloading the newly arrived cargo, the astronauts will repack the spacecraft with some 3,700 pounds of research samples, equipment in need of repairs or refurbishment and trash. Unberthing and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja, California, is targeted for April 6.

First published on March 9, 2020 / 9:44 AM

© 2020 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.”

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There Are 2 Seats Left for This Trip to the International Space Station – The New York Times

There Are 2 Seats Left for This Trip to the International Space Station

Axiom Space is selling tickets on a SpaceX capsule for a $55 million, 10-day stay on the orbiting outpost that would be the first to involve no governmental space agencies.

If you have tens of millions of dollars to spare, you could as soon as next year be one of three passengers setting off aboard a spaceship to the International Space Station for a 10-day stay.

On Thursday, Axiom Space, a company run by a former manager of NASA’s part of the space station, announced that it had signed a contract with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, for what might be the first fully private human spaceflight to orbit.

“I think you’ll see a lot more energy in the market as people come to realize it’s real, and it’s happening,” said Michael T. Suffredini, the president and chief executive of Axiom.

The spaceflight, Axiom officials said, could take off as soon as the second half of 2021.

SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon capsule for taking NASA astronauts to and from the space station. But just as the company’s development of its Falcon 9 rocket for taking cargo to the space station led to a vibrant business of launching commercial satellites, SpaceX is also looking to expand Crew Dragon passengers beyond just NASA astronauts.

After a successful test in January of an in-flight escape system, the first Crew Dragon flight carrying two NASA astronauts could launch within a couple of months.

For now, NASA wants a new Crew Dragon for each trip carrying its astronauts, even though the capsules are designed for multiple trips to space. That means a Crew Dragon flown for NASA could be used again for a flight of tourists.

Last month, Space Adventures, another company, announced an agreement with SpaceX to fly a Crew Dragon with up to four tourists for a free-flying trip that would last up to five days. That trip would not dock at the space station. Eric C. Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures, said in an interview the Crew Dragon would fly autonomously but that the passengers would receive training to be ready for various emergencies.

The Space Adventures trip could happen in late 2021 or early 2022. “It’ll be probably right around the 60th anniversary of the John Glenn’s flight,” Mr. Anderson said, referring to the first American to circle Earth, on Feb. 20, 1962.

The capsule and its passengers would take an elliptical path, reaching an altitude two to three times as high as the space station’s orbit.

Mr. Anderson did not provide an exact price, but said the cost would be $10 million to $20 million less than the $50 million to $60 million usually mentioned for orbital trips.

On the planned Axiom flight, one seat would be occupied by a company-trained astronaut who would serve as the flight commander. The other three seats will be for customers who are to spend 10 days in orbit floating inside the space station. The Axiom astronaut would also oversee the space tourists while they were on the station, making sure that they did not interfere with the six crew members.

Mr. Suffredini said that the space station, with as much interior room as a Boeing 747 jetliner, should have enough room for everyone.

He declined to talk about the cost, but in the past, Axiom has confirmed that a seat on the trip will cost $55 million, and it has already signed up one person.

From 2001 to 2009, seven nonprofessional astronauts bought trips to the space station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. In each of these trips, arranged by Space Adventures, the other two astronauts on the spacecraft were working professionals headed for a tour of duty in orbit. Last year, the United Arab Emirates bought a Soyuz seat to jump-start its space program by sending an astronaut, Hazzaa al-Mansoori, to the space station.

The Axiom mission could be the first orbital flight with people aboard without the direct involvement of a governmental space agency.

NASA has in recent years become more receptive to allowing companies to find new ways to make money on the space station. Last June, NASA set up a price list for various commercial activities, including charging companies like Axiom $35,000 a night for each tourist staying at the station for space to sleep and the use of its amenities like air, water, the internet and the toilet. The largest chunk of the $55 million ticket price is for the rocket ride, which Axiom will pay to SpaceX, not NASA.

“NASA has been very forward leaning, and we’re taking advantage of that,” Mr. Suffredini said.

From 2005 to 2015, Mr. Suffredini worked at NASA as program manager for the International Space Station. A year after retiring, he was one of the founders of Axiom, which claims it can build and operate a private facility at a fraction of the $4 billion that NASA spends annually on the International Space Station.

But the first step in that plan is going to the I.S.S.

Axiom has been discussing with NASA the possibility of tourist flights for several years. Last month, NASA also selected Axiom to develop a module that would be attached to the I.S.S. in 2024 and used for commercial business activities. When the space station is eventually retired, the Axiom module would be detached and used as a building block for Axiom’s private space station.

If a trip to orbit seems like too much, two other companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, may be on track to carry their first customers on short-hop space tourism flights to the edge of space. Virgin earlier priced seats on its space plane at $250,000, but may now charge more. Blue Origin has not announced the cost of a trip aboard its reusable rocket and capsule, New Shepard.

“I think it’s an important inflection point,” said Mr. Anderson of Space Adventures. Space travel, even if affordable for only a few, is still marker of hope and what humans can and do accomplish, he said.

“I’m hopeful it will be something cool and positive in the world,” he said.