The wait is finally over, SpaceX fans. On the morning of August 23, 2017, Elon Musk shared on Twitter and Instagram the long-awaited photo’s on the spacesuits American astronauts will be wearing when they board the crewed version of their Dragon spacecraft next year. Musk stated that more photo’s will be released in the coming days. I will write a longer article about the suits soon.
In other SpaceX news….
On Saturday, August 19th SpaceX fired the nine Merlin engines of the Falcon 9 rocket for a few seconds during their routine static firing before each mission. This mission will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and will deliver the Taiwanese satellite called FormoSat-5, which is an Earth observation satellite. The launch is scheduled to take place on Thursday, August 24th at 2:50 p.m. EDT or 11:50 a.m. PDT. This launch marks the second launch since a maintenance period for the Eastern Range ended in July, causing a six-week halt in launches from the East Coast, keeping the Falcon 9 silent. Although this flight takes place on the west coast, this mission was the second mission in the cue and SpaceX saw no need to bump up this flight to help bridge the gap between missions.
After Thursday’s launch, the next SpaceX launch will occur at the Kennedy Space Center at Launch Pad 39A, to launch the Air Force X-37B space plane on a classified mission. That launch will probably be the final launch from Launch Pad 39A before returning to Falcon 9’s original launch pad, SLC-40 that has been out of commission since September 1, 2016, after a Falcon 9 conflagration during a countdown before an engine firing that destroyed the rocket, Israel’s AMOS satellite and heavily damaged SLC-40. When Launch Pad 39A becomes available, 60 days worth of upgrades and modifications will be completed before the first flight of the Falcon Heavy.
Falcon Heavy is now scheduled to launch in November 2017. Elon Musk has come out and said that he does not think the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy will make it to orbit. This was Musk’s attempt to lower expectations of success for the first flight of this new heavy lift rocket. There are several reasons on why Elon Musk has lower expectations for this launch and it’s because of the few unknowns, the things you can not test for on the ground. This rocket will have 27 engines and SpaceX doesn’t have a facility to test the core with both side boosters strapped together, so I’m sure there will be a static test firing or a few firings out at Launch Pad 39A.
Another factor is that other than computer modeling, no one knows how the elements will truly interact with one another. Musk hopes that the rocket will go well enough to clear Pad 39A and its infrastructure because it’s the only pad that will be used for commercial crew and launching astronauts on SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets to the International Space Station. The Crew Access Arm and White Room is slated to be installed on Pad 39A by years end. An explosion to occur at the complex will devastate SpaceX’s commercial crew launch dates, with only 3 or 4 months after the Falcon Heavy launch and the first demo flight of the Dragon 2 to the International Space Station.
I’m sure whenever the Falcon Heavy finally does launch, has been delayed since 2013, lots of fans will be holding their breaths in anticipation. I’m sure there will be a very large crowd at Kennedy Space Center to view the launch.
On August 14th at 12:31:37pm, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 9 on the 12th Commercial Resupply Servicing (CRS-12) from Launch Pad 39A. The launch resumed flights after a six week upgrade to the Eastern Range. This flight carried supplies, food and science experiments to the space station. An important experiment that was delivered to the crew on the ISS was the protein LRRK2, and it could be targeted with drugs that could help people with Parkinson’s patients.
The launch marked the 11th Falcon 9 launch this year and also nailed another first stage landing back at Landing Zone 1. Since the launch occurred under partly cloudy skies, there were breathtaking views of the first stage coming back in for landing. SpaceX founder Elon Musk says another 12 launches are on tap through the rest of the year, including the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy.