David Szondy / New Atlas
NASA has released the names of the first nine US astronauts for the first four manned, commercial space flights. A mixture of ex-Space Shuttle crews and test pilots, the nine men and women will be the first to ride on an American-made and flagged spacecraft since the Shuttle was retired in 2011, and will act as crew on the first two test flights and the first two mission flights to the International Space Station (!SS).
The space agency’s August 3 announcement is the latest step in the United States’ return to a manned spaceflight program. Since the last Space Shuttle mission, STS-135, landed at the Kennedy Space Center on March 9, 2011, NASA has been completely dependent on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry crews to the ISS. To return manned launches to American territory, the US government has encouraged private firms to develop and operate complete space launch systems to send astronauts and cargo to the space station and return them to Earth.
SpaceX will launch a powerful Telstar communications satellite into orbit early Sunday morning (July 22), testing out the spaceflight company’s new Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket for the second time.
The launch is set to occur Sunday between 1:50 a.m. and 5:50 a.m. EDT (0550 to 0950 GMT) from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and you can watch it live online here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX. You can also follow the action directly at SpaceX’s site.
SpaceX successfully completed a test-fire of the two-stage Falcon 9 Wednesday (July 18), firing the first stage’s nine Merlin engines at full power to test them before lowering the rocket to attach the satellite payload, according to SpaceflightNow.
Tariq Malik / Space.com
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos will launch a fresh cargo ship on a swift flight to the International Space Station today (July 9) and you can watch it live online. The mission will set a new speed record for space station trips: It’s supposed to take less than 4 hours, NASA says.
A Soyuz rocket is scheduled to launch the uncrewed Progress 70 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:51 p.m. EDT (2151 GMT) to deliver nearly 3 tons of supplies for the space station’s crew. NASA’s launch webcast will begin at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) and you can watch it live here, courtesy of NASA TV.
Firing rockets from beneath the wings of an airborne 747 isn’t the most conventional way to get satellites into space, but it might be among the most cost-effective. Virgin spinoff company Virgin Orbit has been awarded a license for its maiden attempt to do just that, with hopes of beginning commercial services before the year is out.
Where Virgin Galactic hopes to give rise to space tourism by carrying well-heeled thrill-seekers to suborbital altitudes inside supersonic spaceplanes, Virgin Orbit will instead focus in launching small satellites.
This starts with its Cosmic Girl mothership, a Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft that would fly to an altitude of around 35,000 ft (10,700 m) with a so-called LauncherOne in tow. This is a two-stage expendable rocket that, after being released at just the right time, fires up its main stage 73,500-lb (33,339-kg) engine for around three minutes.