SpaceX to launch second rideshare, pressuring small-launch industry

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Ars Technica 29 June, 2021 - 10:06am 40 views

SpaceX to launch 88 satellites on Transporter 2 rideshare mission today. Here's how to watch live.

Space.com 29 June, 2021 - 11:04am

A Russian Progress cargo ship will launch tonight, too.

A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket flight is scheduled to take off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station here in Florida. Liftoff is expected during a one-hour window that opens at 2:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT).  You can watch the launch action live here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of SpaceX, or you can watch directly from SpaceX here about 15 minutes before liftoff.

Perched atop the 230-foot-tall (70 meters) launcher are dozens of satellites as part of a dedicated rideshare mission. This cosmic carpool, known as Transporter-2, will be deposited into a polar orbit — a rare launch trajectory for flights out of the Cape.

Sonic booms are expected to crackle overhead as the rocket will make a rare return to landing site (RTLS) landing. (Typically SpaceX prefers to land the majority of its rockets on the deck of one of its massive drone ships.)

Related: See the evolution of SpaceX's rockets in pictures

Tuesday's launch marks a potential global launch doubleheader as later in the evening, a Russian Progress cargo ship is slated to blast off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff is set for 7:57 p.m. EDT (2357 GMT). 

That  ship is packed with cargo and research supplies for the astronauts onboard the space station. After launching, it will dock with the International Space Station two days later, on July 1. 

Today's SpaceX Falcon 9 flight marks the 20th mission of the year for the company and the landing at the Cape since December. The veteran Falcon 9 starring in this mission will blast off on its 8th launch and landing attempt, carrying 88 small satellites into space as part of the company's second dedicated rideshare mission. 

Targeting Tuesday, June 29 for launch of Transporter-2. This mission will launch 88 spacecraft to orbit and more customer mass than SpaceX’s previous dedicated rideshare missionJune 25, 2021

This mission will not set any records, but according to SpaceX the payloads onboard have a combined mass that is greater than those on Transporter-1. Those payloads include satellites for the U.S. military, as well as Earth-observing satellites for companies based in Argentina and Finland, as well as a whole host of CubeSats from agencies around the world. 

Following liftoff on Tuesday afternoon, the Transporter-2 Falcon 9 rocket's first stage is expected to land on land at SpaceX's Landing Zone 1 here at the Cape. If successful, it will mark the 89th recovery of a first-stage booster for SpaceX.  

The company typically chooses to land its boosters on one of its massive drone ships, that's because it takes less fuel to land at sea. However, for lighter missions (like this one) or missions that don't go to a high-altitude orbit, the booster has enough fuel leftover to head back to terra firma

"Falcon 9 will fly along Florida's eastern coast, over the ocean and may be visible from the ground," SpaceX said in a statement released on Monday. The statement also told local residents to be aware that the launch could produce sonic booms as the booster made its way back to the landing site. 

"There is a possibility that residents may hear one or more sonic booms during the landing, but what residents experience will depend on weather and other conditions," the advisory said. 

This will be the 1st RTLS of the year and if successful, will mark the 20th touchdown of a first stage booster at SpaceX's pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. 

The Falcon 9 rocket for the Transporter-2 launch is a seven-time flier known as B1060. This flight-proven veteran will embark on its eighth flight and, if all goes according to plan, will be able to stick its landing.

For its next mission, the veteran will serve as a kind of space Uber, delivering a group of small satellites into orbit as part of SpaceX's rideshare program, which aims to help smaller satellites get into space by sharing a ride much like an Uber pool. 

SpaceX's newest contracted boat, HOS  Briarwood, an orange and black vessel outfitted with a crane is the temporary fairing recovery vehicle. Right now, SpaceX's fleet of Dragon recovery vessels is preparing for the return of the CRS-22 Cargo Dragon resupply ship, leaving the fairing retrieval to the new kid on the block. 

HOS Briarwood has one successful recovery under its belt going into Tuesday's mission and with any luck will continue its streak. 

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It's Launch Day! What you need to know about today's SpaceX Transporter-2 launch

Florida Today 29 June, 2021 - 11:04am

SpaceX is on track to launch its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station's Launch Complex 40

Here's what you need to know for today's launch:

• Liftoff is scheduled for 2:56 p.m. 

• The 230-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket will fly SpaceX's second Transporter mission, a service that allows several organizations to split launch costs by flying smaller spacecraft in one payload fairing

• The launch window is open for eight minutes.

• Weather forecast is 80% "go" at the launch pad.  

• Approximately eight minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket's first-stage booster will target an automatic landing at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station's Landing Zone 1

• This will be the first non-drone ship landing attempt for SpaceX in 2021

• Unlike most missions that fly toward the northeast or even straight out east over the Atlantic, Falcon 9 will rapidly gimbal its engines after launch and turn toward the south on a kind of polar trajectory known as sun-synchronous.

• Full coverage of the launch kicks off at 1:30 p.m. Thursday  at  floridatoday.com/space and will feature in-depth coverage. Ask our space team reporter Emre Kelly questions and strike up a conversation. We will also be hosting SpaceX's live webcast of the launch.

Rob Landers is a USA TODAY Network of Florida multimedia journalist. You can reach him at rlanders@floridatoday.com

Sonic booms! SpaceX to launch rocket, return booster to Cape Canaveral

WKMG News 6 & ClickOrlando 29 June, 2021 - 11:04am

After a 2:56 p.m. liftoff from Launch Complex 40, the rocket’s 162-foot booster will separate from the payload-hauling second stage, flip around, and begin an autonomous descent toward nearby Landing Zone 1. Though it will have flown to an altitude hundreds of thousands of feet above Earth’s surface, the booster will touch down just five-and-a-half miles from where it started.

It’s been a while since residents and spectators were startled by sonic booms – the last time a Falcon 9 booster returned to the Cape for a local landing was in December. That mission took a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload to low-Earth orbit.

Sonic booms are generated when an aircraft or rocket approaches the speed-of-sound barrier during acceleration or deceleration. Falcon 9′s booms aren’t heard during ascent due to its altitude, but its landing booms are generated just over the Cape as it fires its Merlin engines to slow down.

“There is a possibility that residents of Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Indian River, Seminole, Volusia, Polk, St. Lucie, and Okeechobee counties may hear one or more sonic booms during the landing,” SpaceX said in a warning statement Monday. “But what residents experience will depend on weather and other conditions.”

From bottom to top, Falcon 9 generates three sonic booms during its descent: first, the Merlin main engines, then the black landing legs, and finally, the titanium grid finds used to steer the rocket. Though some spectators close to the landing pad might be able to make out two or even all three booms, most will only hear one large rumble by the time it reaches their location.

Though loud enough to rattle windows and startle spectators, studies – including some authored by NASA and Air Force researchers – have shown sonic booms are not dangerous.

Booms used to be much more common on the Space Coast. Returning space shuttles would break through the sound barrier during their approach to Kennedy Space Center’s former Shuttle Landing Facility, generating booms that could be heard as far away as Florida’s west coast.

Today, just two vehicles generate sonic booms during descent: Falcon 9 and X-37B, a secretive Boeing spaceplane operated by the Space Force that stays in low-Earth orbit years at a time. Hearing unscheduled booms is often a sign that X-37B has returned to the SLF, now called the Launch and Landing Facility.

Tuesday will see SpaceX fly its second Transporter mission, a service that allows several organizations to split launch costs by flying smaller spacecraft in one Falcon 9 payload fairing. The first Transporter flight broke records in January with a whopping 143 spacecraft, while Tuesday’s launch will include 88 total payloads.

Transporter-2 has another treat in store for Florida: unlike most missions that fly toward the northeast or even straight out east over the Atlantic, Falcon 9 will rapidly gimbal its engines after launch and turn toward the south on a kind of polar trajectory known as sun-synchronous. If conditions are clear enough, the launch could be visible to residents well into South Florida.

Weather, meanwhile, should be 80% “go” for liftoff during the eight-minute window, according to the Space Force.

“Tuesday should continue the favorable conditions at the spaceport with morning coastal showers, but afternoon convection will remain mostly inland,” Space Launch Delta 45 forecasters said Monday. “The primary concerns are the cumulus and anvil cloud rules associated with inland thunderstorm activity.”

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SpaceX plans to launch 88 satellites in rideshare mission

UPI News 29 June, 2021 - 02:00am

The company's Sherpa spacecraft help other small satellites get to their intended orbit, like a space tugboat -- also known as an orbital transfer vehicle.

The company is working on new types of propulsion for the space tugs to address the many types of activities happening in the space industry, spokeswoman Christine Melby said.

Launch of #SXRS5 #Transporter2 is targeted for tomorrow, Tuesday June 29. Check out a brief mission overview: pic.twitter.com/JVzliOQAi3— Spaceflight (@SpaceflightInc) June 28, 2021

A customer riding with Spaceflight is British space company In-Space Missions.

"We're feeling confident about the upcoming launch. SpaceX has developed a great track record for success over the past few years," said Doug Liddle, CEO of In-Space Missions.

The Faraday spacecraft are designed to also carry multiple payloads ranging from science experiments to Earth observation technology. Among the customers on the Faraday Phoenix are European aviation and space giant Airbus.

In-Space Missions will test a wideband radio capability that could allow uploading of new software to conduct new activities in space for customers, Liddle said.

"For some customers this will cut down the access time to orbit from years to months or even weeks," he said.

Other spacecraft on board include a cluster of Earth observation satellites for Luxembourg-based Kleos Space's Polar Vigilance Mission; a technology demonstration spacecraft called Arthur for Belgium-based Aerospacelab that will test high-resolution optical cameras; and several satellites that can detect and locate radio frequency signals for Virginia-based geospatial analytics company HawkEye 360.

The U.S. Department of Defense has three spacecraft on the launch, Mandrake II, LINCS and POET. They are the first such satellites built and designed by the department's Space Development Agency and are aimed at gathering information on new laser technology to send data to and from spacecraft in orbit.

The weather for the Tuesday launch attempt is expected to be 80% favorable liftoff, according to a U.S. Space Force forecast.

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