A new group of civilian astronauts, including at least one YouTuber, as well as two military spacecraft and a country’s first mission to the moon leave the planet in less than 24 hours this Thursday, here is a summary of space news particularly busy today.
The day began with the launch of a (small payload) Rocket Lab Electron mission that sent a spy satellite into orbit from New Zealand on behalf of the US National Reconnaissance Office. This was the NRO’s second consecutive assignment for the Americanokiwi company.
Then, a United Launch Alliance mission ignited an Atlas V rocket to send a space-based infrared system (SBIRS) satellite to geosynchronous Earth orbit to provide missile detection and early warning for the US Space Force from the Cape Canaveral space station in Florida.
SpaceX: a first mission for South Korea
Florida’s space coast will be the scene of a double explosion on Thursday, when ULA’s launch is followed by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Korea Pathfinder lunar orbiter. This spacecraft is South Korea’s first space exploration mission. It is to travel to low lunar orbit, where it will take images of the surface and map potential landing sites. Korean media are also reporting that he plans to test the radio connection between the Moon and Earth by transmitting BTS’ song Dynamite to our planet.
SpaceX’s launch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. EST, or 1:08 a.m. Paris time, about twelve and a half hours after the day’s previous orbital launch from Cape Canaveral. This is the shortest interval between two such launches from the space center since 1967, at the height of the Apollo program.
Blue Origin: a tourist mission
In between, a New Shepard rocket from Blue Origin lifted off from the company’s launch base in West Texas. The sixth crewed mission from Jeff Bezos’ space company will feature the first Egyptian and Portuguese astronauts in history, as well as the first Guinness World Record holder to visit space, as far as we know.
Coby Cotton, co-founder of the hit YouTube channel Dude Perfect, is the headliner of the Blue Origin crew, alongside Portuguese entrepreneur Mário Ferreira, American-British mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien, technology leader Clint Kelly III, Egyptian engineer Sara Sabry and telecommunications executive Steve Young.
The group will take the now familiar route from the Texas desert to the edge of space for a few minutes of weightlessness and stunning views before descending back to the surface.
A surprise launch from China?
In addition to all of this action, it looks like China could conduct an experimental, unannounced test flight of a spacecraft today.
All of this makes today one of the busiest days we’ve seen in spaceflight, but it may just be the start as SpaceX and NASA ramp up plans to send more astronauts in orbit, on the moon and beyond in the years to come.
CNET.com article adapted by CNETFrance