Lots to catch up on since my last post on July 23rd. The great summer for spaceflight continues.
Down to Earth
After Eileen Collins spoke at the RNC, another Space Shuttle commander, Mark Kelly, spoke at the DNC.
Sierra Nevada is getting ready to start test flights of their Dream Chaser spaceplane in California, once their full-scale vehicle is shipped their from Colorado.
Virgin Galactic was awarded an operations license from the FAA as they are preparing to resume flight tests with their new SpaceShipTwo vehicle.
A small sample bag from the Apollo 11 mission is at the center of two lawsuits. I’m sure Dr. Jones would agree that it belongs in a museum.
One of the Orbiter Access Arm’s from the Space Shuttle program is now on display at Houston’s Space Center Houston.
Meanwhile, the next generation of crew access arms, for Boeing’ Starliner capsule, was delivered to the Atlas V pad in Florida.
SpaceX conducted a full duration test fire of one of their recovered first stage boosters. Here’s the video:
Google Lunar X Prize competitor, Moon Express, has received approval from the United States government for their private mission to land a rover on the moon.
Vector Space Systems completed their first successful sub-orbital launch.
Speaking of launches, there were four successful orbital flights since my last post. This brings the year’s total to 50 for 50 on orbital launches. For comparison, 2015 had 87 total with 5 failures.
First was an Atlas V launch from Cape Canaveral carrying a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.
Lastly was the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch early in the morning ofAugust 14. The rocket successfully delivered the Japanese JCSAT communications satellite to orbit and recovered the first stage booster on the ASDS at sea. Very impressive. This brings SpaceX’s year up to 8 successful launches for 8 attempts – a yearly record already in August – and 5 for 8 on booster recovery.
Coming up next week is a spacewalk on ISS by NASA astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins to install the new International Docking Adapter.
Around the Solar System
The Chinese Yutu rover is still communicating with the ground from the lunar surface, although it has long since stopped roving. Despite some reports that it is “dead” it is still expected to wake up from hibernation after the current lunar night.
Follow this link for an update on the Curiosity rover mission on Mars, including some nice pictures.
Here is a full year of observations of the Earth NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite. The cyclones in the Pacific are quite obvious.
Apparently claims of a discover of an Earth-like planet around Proxima Centauri (our nearest neighboring star) are exciting, but it is worth waiting for more reputable news sources to pick it up than just a small German newspaper… or a peer-reviewed journal paper?