Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Out of This World

Click the arrow to watch the July 13 launch of the Orbital Sciences Cygnus to the International Space Station. Video source: NASA YouTube channel.

Click the arrow to watch the July 14 launch of six Orbcomm satellites atop a SpaceX Falcon 9. Video source: SpaceX YouTube channel.

Two NewSpace launches in the last two days reminded us that the American launch industry is alive and well.

On July 13, Orbital Sciences sent its Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the NASA facility in Wallops, Virginia. Cygnus is scheduled to arrive at the ISS early in the morning (Florida time) on July 16. It's the second of eight cargo deliveries for Orbital under their NASA contract.

On July 14, SpaceX launched and deployed six Orbcomm satellites from its complex at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch was delayed several times over the last two months for several reasons, ranging from vehicle problems to satellite batteries to bad weather to range maintenance.

This was also the second attempt by SpaceX to demonstrate its ability to return the first stage to a target in the Atlantic Ocean, hoping to win Air Force permission to attempt landing a stage later this year at CCAFS. The first flight in April went well, except the stage was destroyed by stormy seas before a recovery ship could arrive.

Monday's attempt was nominal until ... well, I'll let Elon Musk tell you.

The launch also saw the return of the live SpaceX webcast.

After several failed launch attempts, the June 21 attempt was blacked out. A SpaceX representative claimed that “the main reason is these launches are becoming more routine and the full webcast isn't really appropriate anymore.”

The blackout unleashed a firestorm on social media. SpaceX relented, and agreed to continue webcasts in a different format. This launch was webcast with voiceover narrative, no live studio talking heads.

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