Ongoing amazing news from the open frontier of space

Recovered Falcon 9 booster after NORL-76 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX.

There is a non-stop stream of amazing news from the open frontier of space:

  • SpaceX recovers Falcon 9 after launching spy sat
  • Another good launch of sat into geosyn orbit by India
  • ULA joint venture agreement expires
  • China starts test of cabin for lunar living


Falcon 9 booster about to land after NORL-76 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX.


5/1/17 – – SpaceX Launches US Spy Satellite on Secret Mission, Nails Rocket Landing – SpaceX successfully put a classified satellite from National Reconnaissance Office into orbit. As a massive fringe benefit, they also recovered the first stage back at the launch site. This is their fourth successful recovery on land.

The photograph from the launch is incredible. In particular, there is a great view of the first stage separation, flip, and boostback burn.

Here is a clip on Instagram, posted by Elon Musk:


Fabulous! That is rocket science.

5/5/17 – Behind the Black – India’s GSLV rocket successfully launches communications satellite – The fifth successful launch of the country’s Mark II GSLV is an accomplishment all by itself.

Article pointed to by the post highlights the third stage is designed and built in India, instead of using a Russian engine. The entire vehicle is now indigenous. Not that my opinion matters, but congrats to the rocket wizards that made that happen!

India now has three different launch vehicles, all indigenously designed and developed:

  • PSLV – Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle – for LEO in polar and sun synchronous orbits
  • GSLV  and GSLV Mk-III – Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle – for geosyn launch
  • Sounding Rockets – suborbital and atmospheric testing

Fantastic, I say. The more competition the better for everyone.


Falcon 9 booster lifting NORL-76 to orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX.


5/10/17 – Janes – United Launch Alliance joint-venture agreement expires – The joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin to provide space launch is called United Launch Alliance (ULA). That joint venture has launched the majority of USAF missions since it was formed in 2005 and (if I understand correctly) owned the market for other government launches.

The joint venture agreement expired a week ago.  Author was not able to gather information on the status of the agreement, whether it has been extended or the two companies will go their separate ways.


Close up view of Falcon 9 booster lifting NORL-76 to orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX.


5/11/17 – BBC – China takes aim at the Moon with long-term cabin trial – China has started a one year long test of a cabin that could be used as housing on the moon.  The Yuegong-1, Lunar Palace, will be completely self-sustaining. One team of 4 has entered for a 60 day stay. Another team will occupy the facility for 200 days, followed by the first team returning for 105 days.

Looks to me like China is working on multiple paths to develop a robust, sustained space presence.

They are one of three countries to put people in space. In the U.S. these are called astronauts, in Russia cosmonauts, and in China taikonauts.

Article provides various highlights of the Chinese space program:

  • 181 – satellites in space.
  • 11 – number of Chinese taikonauts that have been in space.
  • US$2.2 billion – guess on Chinese annual spending on space program.
  • 2003 – first crewed flight
  • 2020 – target for operational space station


Falcon 9 booster lifting NORL-76 to orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX.

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