All systems ‘go’ for SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral to ISS

The mission, SpaceX’s 14th under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services Contract, marks the second time the agency has flown on a combination of a previously flown booster and Dragon spacecraft. The 156-foot-tall booster first flew on CRS-12 in August 2017, while Dragon flew on CRS-8 in April …
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Launch teams are ready to kick off a busy month for the Space Coast with the Monday afternoon liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral with supplies destined for the International Space Station.

About 5,800 pounds of cargo and science experiments will vault off the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 in a Dragon spacecraft during an instantaneous window that opens at 4:30 p.m. The window pushes back to 4:08 p.m. in the event of a delay to Tuesday.

The mission, SpaceX’s 14th under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services Contract, marks the second time the agency has flown on a combination of a previously flown booster and Dragon spacecraft. The 156-foot-tall booster first flew on CRS-12 in August 2017, while Dragon flew on CRS-8 in April 2016.

But unlike previous CRS missions where SpaceX landed boosters back at Cape Canaveral, CRS-14 will not include a local recovery and instead focus on providing data as part of an expendable “demonstration mission.”

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[After one year, reusable rockets becoming routine for SpaceX]

“Every mission is looked at on a case-by-case basis,” said Jessica Jensen, director of Dragon mission management for SpaceX, during a pre-launch conference at Kennedy Space Center. “This one seemed like a really good opportunity to fly a trajectory a little bit out more towards the limits.

“That way our engineers can collect additional data not only during re-entry but for the landing that will be useful for the future,” she said.

SpaceX hopes to debut a new version of its Falcon 9 rocket, known as Block V, sometime soon.

Despite the overcast Easter weekend, weather looks good for Monday’s attempt – conditions should be 80 percent “go” at launch time – according to a Sunday update issued by the Air Force.

“After a dreary couple days in Central Florida, I’m happy to report we have some sunshine outside now,” said Mike McAleenan, a launch weather officer with the 45th Weather Squadron. “I think we’re going to have a pretty good shot at launch.”

Science experiments being hurled toward the station include new ways of looking at severe thunderstorms; seven new containers to grow plants that could one day feed astronauts en route to deep space; and studying pathogens through the use of fruit flies, to name a few of the more than 50 experiments that will be impacted by CRS-14.

Photos: SpaceX launches Hispasat satellite from Cape Canaveral

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with the Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK / FLORIDA TODAY
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 with the Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  CRAIG BAILEY / FLORIDA TODAY
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 with the Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  CRAIG BAILEY / FLORIDA TODAY
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 with the Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  CRAIG BAILEY / FLORIDA TODAY
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 with the Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  CRAIG BAILEY / FLORIDA TODAY
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 with the Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  CRAIG BAILEY / FLORIDA TODAY
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 with the Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  CRAIG BAILEY / FLORIDA TODAY

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If all goes well with Monday’s liftoff and subsequent operations, Dragon will arrive at the orbiting outpost around 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Looking forward to the remainder of April, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled to take flight on April 12 with an Air Force payload known as AFSPC-11; a Falcon 9 rocket will take NASA’s planet-hunting TESS spacecraft to orbit on April 16; and another Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch Bangladesh’s first geostationary satellite sometime in late April.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook at @EmreKelly.

Launch Monday

  • Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9 (previously flown on CRS-12)
  • Mission: CRS-14, SpaceX’s 14th International Space Station supply mission for NASA
  • Launch Time: 4:30 p.m. (exact launch time is 38 seconds after 4:30 p.m.)
  • Launch Window: Instantaneous
  • Launch Complex: 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
  • Weather: 80 percent “go”

Join FloridaToday.com/Space at 3:30 p.m. for countdown chat and updates, including streaming of NASA TV launch coverage starting at 4 p.m.

Have you tried 321 LAUNCH?

Thanks to cutting-edge augmented reality technology, or the overlaying of digital objects onto the real world made possible by mobile cameras, spaceflight now fits in your pocket. Explore launch pads, rockets and live launches in detail right on your smartphone.

Download 321 LAUNCH today. You can find it in the Apple app store or in Google Play on Android phones. The app is free.

Download for Apple devices here.

Download for Android devices here.

System requirements list:

Apple:

  • iPhone 6S or newer with iOS 11 or newer
  • Fifth-generation iPad (2017) or newer

Android’s AR capabilities are limited to the following models:

  • Google Pixel, Pixel XL or newer
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 or newer
  • Samsung Galaxy Note8
  • LG V30 and LG V30+
  • Asus Zenfone AR
  • OnePlus 5
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Elon Musk: New SpaceX drone ship, A Shortfall of Gravitas, coming to East Coast

A new SpaceX drone ship currently under construction will likely call the Space Coast home and help the company handle increased Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy operations, CEO Elon Musk said Monday. The company’s third ship, named A Shortfall of Gravitas, will join Of Course I Still Love You for East …
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2018 ROCKET LAUNCHES FROM THE SPACE COAST SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches from KSC, boosters land at Cape Canaveral | 1:34

SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 and landed two of the side boosters at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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2018 ROCKET LAUNCHES FROM THE SPACE COAST SpaceX Falcon 9 launches from Cape Canaveral with satellite | 1:30

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with the GovSat-1 communications satellite on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018.

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2018 ROCKET LAUNCHES FROM THE SPACE COAST Atlas V launches from Cape Canaveral with missile detection satellite | 2:01

An Atlas V rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with an Air Force satellite designed to detect ballistic missile launches on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.

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2018 ROCKET LAUNCHES FROM THE SPACE COAST Watch SpaceX launch the secretive Zuma mission and nail the landing | 0:43

SpaceX successfully launched the secretive Zuma mission from Cape Canaveral on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018 and landed the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage.

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  • SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches from KSC, boosters land at Cape Canaveral
    SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches from KSC, boosters land at Cape Canaveral
  • SpaceX Falcon 9 launches from Cape Canaveral with satellite
    SpaceX Falcon 9 launches from Cape Canaveral with satellite
  • Atlas V launches from Cape Canaveral with missile detection satellite
    Atlas V launches from Cape Canaveral with missile detection satellite
  • Watch SpaceX launch the secretive Zuma mission and nail the landing
    Watch SpaceX launch the secretive Zuma mission and nail the landing
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A new SpaceX drone ship currently under construction will help the company handle increased launch operations and likely call the Space Coast home, CEO Elon Musk said Monday.

The company’s third ship, named A Shortfall of Gravitas, will join Of Course I Still Love You for East Coast booster landing operations, Musk said via Twitter in response to FLORIDA TODAY. The latter is based at Port Canaveral and returns Falcon 9 boosters to facilities near the port for post-launch checkouts.

Musk also confirmed that for Falcon Heavy missions, the rocket’s two side boosters will not always return to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station like they did during last week’s premiere launch. In some cases involving tight fuel margins and heavy satellites, having two ships based on the Space Coast will mean both sail out at the same time and play host to tandem ocean landings.

[SpaceX Falcon Heavy: Way big and cool, but who wants it?]

[Floating through space, SpaceX’s ‘Starman’ mesmerizes the world]

SpaceX operates its third ship, named Just Read the Instructions, on the West Coast for launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. All three are named after spacecraft featured in Scottish author Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” novels.

Of Course I Still Love You, though, was damaged during the first Falcon Heavy mission that took flight from Kennedy Space Center – the rocket’s center core missed the ship by about 300 feet, but the force of its 300 mph water impact was enough to “take out” two engines on the ship.

“Not enough ignition fluid to light the outer two engines after several three engine relights,” Musk also said Monday on the center core’s landing failure. “Fix is pretty obvious.”

SpaceX teams at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, meanwhile, are targeting no earlier than 12:35 a.m. on Feb. 22 for the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40. Hispasat 30W-6, a commercial communications satellite, will be boosted to a geostationary transfer orbit.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook at @EmreKelly.

Photos: SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch from KSC and booster landings

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SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 on its demonstration flight.  Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY
SpaceX's newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy lifts off

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SpaceX’s newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy lifts off on it first demonstration flight. The rocket leapt off Pad 39A at 3:45pm.  Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, answers questions during

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Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, answers questions during a press conference following Tuesday’s Falcon Heavy launch from Kennedy Space Center.  CRAIG BAILEY / FLORIDA TODAY
SpaceX's newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy lifts off

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SpaceX’s newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy lifts off on it first demonstration flight. The rocket leapt off Pad 39A at 3:45pm.  FLORIDA TODAY-USA TODAY NETWORK
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 on its demonstration flight.  Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center on its demonstration mission on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY
As seen from Cape Canaveral's beach: Crowds watch SpaceX's

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As seen from Cape Canaveral’s beach: Crowds watch SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
As seen from Cape Canaveral's beach: Crowds watch SpaceX's

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As seen from Cape Canaveral’s beach: Crowds watch SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
The boosters separate from the central core of SpaceX's

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The boosters separate from the central core of SpaceX’s newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy during it first demonstration flight.   Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY
Two boosters from SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket land

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Two boosters from SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after launch from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY
Two of Falcon Heavy's boosters return to land at Cape

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Two of Falcon Heavy’s boosters return to land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after Falcon Heavy launched from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY
Two boosters from SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket land

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Two boosters from SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after launch from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY
Two boosters from SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket land

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Two boosters from SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after launch from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds in Cape Canaveral watch two of the three boosters

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Crowds in Cape Canaveral watch two of the three boosters from the SpaceX heavy land moments apart at Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds watch from the beach near Port Canaveral as

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Crowds watch from the beach near Port Canaveral as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds pack Brevard's beaches for the SpaceX Falcon

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Crowds pack Brevard’s beaches for the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
As seen from Cape Canaveral's beach: Crowds watch SpaceX's

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As seen from Cape Canaveral’s beach: Crowds watch SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
As seen from Cape Canaveral's beach: Crowds watch SpaceX's

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As seen from Cape Canaveral’s beach: Crowds watch SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds pack Brevard's beaches for the SpaceX Falcon

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Crowds pack Brevard’s beaches for the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launches on its demonstration

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches on its demonstration flight from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds watch from the beach near Port Canaveral as

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Crowds watch from the beach near Port Canaveral as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
SpaceX's newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy lifts off

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SpaceX’s newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy lifts off on it first demonstration flight. The rocket leapt off Pad 39A at 3:45pm.  Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds watch from the beach near Port Canaveral as

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Crowds watch from the beach near Port Canaveral as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds watch from the beach near Port Canaveral as

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Crowds watch from the beach near Port Canaveral as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds watch from the beach near Port Canaveral as

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Crowds watch from the beach near Port Canaveral as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days,

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Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days, line the beaches of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach to watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days,

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Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days, line the beaches of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach to watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center and the return of the rocket’s boosters landing at Landing Zone 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.   MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Makr and Linda Guinn from Minnesota were part of the

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Makr and Linda Guinn from Minnesota were part of the crowd in Cape Canaveral. Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days, line the beaches of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach to watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center and the return of the rocket’s boosters landing at Landing Zone 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.   MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Bart Stutts watches the rocket go out of site. Crowds

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Bart Stutts watches the rocket go out of site. Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days, line the beaches of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach to watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center and the return of the rocket’s boosters landing at Landing Zone 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.   MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days,

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Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days, line the beaches of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach to watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center and the return of the rocket’s boosters landing at Landing Zone 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.   MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days,

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Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days, line the beaches of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach to watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center and the return of the rocket’s boosters landing at Landing Zone 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.   MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days,

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Crowds of people. reminiscent of shuttle launch days, line the beaches of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach to watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.  MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Crowds in Cape Canaveral watch two of the three boosters

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Crowds in Cape Canaveral watch two of the three boosters from the SpaceX heavy land moments apart at Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.The entire crowd cheered and clapped when the two boosters landed successfully.   MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
SpaceX's newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy lifts off

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SpaceX’s newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy lifts off on it first demonstration flight. The rocket leapt off Pad 39A at 3:45pm.  FLORIDA TODAY-USA TODAY NETWORK
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX answers questions during a

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Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX answers questions during a press conference following today’s Falcon Heavy Launch. Mandatory Credit: Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK  FLORIDA TODAY-USA TODAY NETWORK
SpaceX's newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy lifts off

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SpaceX’s newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy lifts off on it first demonstration flight. The rocket leapt off Pad 39A at 3:45pm.  FLORIDA TODAY-USA TODAY NETWORK

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SpaceX rocket launched from Florida with satellite for NATO surveillance

It marked the second rocket launch this year for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and his privately owned Space Exploration Technologies. It comes a week before the California-based company is slated to conduct its highly anticipated first test flight of the much larger and more powerful Falcon Heavy …

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Wednesday carrying into orbit a Luxembourg-made communications satellite designed in part to expand NATO’s surveillance reach and its capability to deter cyber attacks on alliance members.

The liftoff at 4:25 p.m. EST (2125 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station followed a technical glitch that prompted a 24-hour flight delay. It marked the second rocket launch this year for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and his privately owned Space Exploration Technologies.

It comes a week before the California-based company is slated to conduct its highly anticipated first test flight of the much larger and more powerful Falcon Heavy rocket, which packs three times the thrust of the Falcon 9.

Wednesday’s payload was a communications satellite built for LuxGovSat S.A., a public-private joint venture between the Luxembourg government and Luxembourg-based telecommunications company SES, in part to fulfill that nation’s growing defense obligations to NATO.

The so-called GovSat-1 satellite will provide, among other things, greater cyber protection for Luxembourg’s European Union partners and NATO allies, including the United States, Luxembourg Defense Minister Etienne Schneider told a news conference on Tuesday.

GovSat-1 also will serve civilian telecommunications security functions.

Thirty-four minutes after liftoff, the satellite was successfully released into a highly elliptical “parking” orbit, according to SpaceX. It will eventually settle into a round orbit 22,370 miles (36,000 km) high, where it will circle the Earth for 15 years.

A spokesman for Schneider said the $279 million satellite, which weighs about 4-1/2 tons, is part of a broader policy of doubling the country’s contributions to NATO.

Citing new security threats, a senior NATO official told Reuters in March that the alliance planned to spend more than $3 billion on defense technology, a third of which would go toward satellite communications.

Unlike many recent SpaceX launches, the company had not initially planned on retrieving the rocket’s reusable main-stage because the payload had to be carried to such a high orbit that the booster was left without sufficient fuel to fly back to Earth for a return landing.

However, the booster “amazingly” survived its ocean splash-down intact, Musk said in a Twitter message posted later with a photograph of the vehicle floating at sea. “We will try to tow it back to shore,” he said.

The same Falcon 9 booster was used last year in a mission to launch a top-secret payload into space for the U.S. government.

Additional reporting by Irene Klotz at Cape Canaveral; Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler

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SpaceX Dragon Capsule Splashes Down In Pacific Ocean After Space Station Supply Delivery

SpaceX announced on Twitter a good on-target splashdown of the commercial cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean, west of Baja, California. The unmanned SpaceX Dragon was detached from the port of the ISS Harmony module and released by a robotic arm at 4:58 a.m. EST. The Dragon began firing its …
The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship successfully returned to Earth after a month-long delivery mission. This development came amid controversy of the missing Zuma satellite. ( Pixabay )

Dragon, an active cargo spacecraft of the Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has successfully returned to Earth after a 29-day stay in orbit.

The ship completed a 13-round trip supply missions to the International Space Station before making its descent to Earth on Saturday, Jan. 13.

Dragon’s Successful Splashdown

SpaceX announced on Twitter a good on-target splashdown of the commercial cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean, west of Baja, California. The unmanned SpaceX Dragon was detached from the port of the ISS Harmony module and released by a robotic arm at 4:58 a.m. EST.

The Dragon began firing its thrusters at 9:43 a.m. EST for its return to Earth. The reentry process was a success and the Dragon’s parachutes unfurled at 10:37 a.m. EST before settling in the ocean.

Space X will bring the supply ship to the company’s testing facility in McGregor Texas for standard post-flight procedures.

$2 Billion Contract With NASA

The Dragon is carrying more than 4,100 pounds of space junk, gear, space hardware, biological samples, and other scientific specimens. NASA officials said the package contained important scientific materials for human and animal experiments.

Contents of the Dragon include time-sensitive specimens such as urine, blood samples and live mice from NASA’s Rodent Research Program 6 that will be used by scientists for an experiment on muscle loss in space.

The science gear also includes a hardware from a space experiment by manufacturing company, Made In Space, for the 3D-printing of ZBLAN glass fiber optic wire in space. The contents of the cargo will be unloaded and handed over to NASA research teams.

SpaceX has a $2 billion contract with NASA for 20 supply missions to the space station, 13 of which already completed by the Dragon that is designed to survive reentry and carrying of the load back to Earth. Dragon’s next cargo delivery mission for NASA is scheduled on April 2.

The Dragon And The Falcon 9

The Dragon and the Falcon 9 missions are important highlights of SpaceX rocket reusability program and commercial space flights.

Falcon 9 booster launched the Dragon mission on Dec. 15 from Cape Canaveral. The cargo capsule carrying 2.4 tons of space supplies reached the space station on Dec. 17.

Both the Falcon 9 booster and the Dragon capsule made their second trips to space on this flight. The successful return of the Dragon mission came amid speculations that the Zuma satellite launched by Falcon 9 early this month got lost in space.

SpaceX’s most powerful rocket to date, the Falcon Heavy, is scheduled to launch its maiden flight this month. The Falcon Heavy has three Falcon 9 cores, an engine upper stage, and combined 27 engines. The spacecraft will run initial engine firing tests next week.

© 2018 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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Here’s How to Watch SpaceX Launch the US Government’s Mysterious Zuma Spacecraft

On Sunday night, Elon Musk’s SpaceX will launch “Zuma,” a mysterious government spacecraft of unknown purpose, on one of its partially-reusable Falcon 9 two-stage rockets from Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The exact time of the launch has yet to be set, though …

A Falcon 9 launch on December 22nd, 2017. Photo: AP

On Sunday night, Elon Musk’s SpaceX will launch “Zuma,” a mysterious government spacecraft of unknown purpose, on one of its partially-reusable Falcon 9 two-stage rockets from Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The exact time of the launch has yet to be set, though SpaceX has set a two-hour window beginning at 8pm ET.

Zuma’s launch was delayed two months for what SpaceX called “fairing testing,” referring to the part of its rockets that house the payload, and a few additional days after extreme weather hit the East Coast. It wasn’t until earlier in January that the company was able to confirm a hard time or date for the launch.

Nothing is really known about Zuma other than that it was commissioned by Northrop Grumman for an unknown customer and that it’s “targeting an insertion position somewhere in low Earth orbit,” per TechCrunch. So it’s certainly not unlikely that it’s designed for military or intelligence purposes; per USA Today, amateur satellite watchers have speculated Zuma is related to earlier launches of spacecraft that appeared to be surveilling other spaceborne objects.

SpaceX tweeted that weather conditions are now 80 percent favorable for Sunday, and that it’s completed yet more pre-launch testing, so all looks as good to go on paper as firing a giant canister of rocket fuel and secret technology into the sky can be.

According to Space.com, the launch will involve a re-entry attempt by the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1—SpaceX has pulled off 20 such re-entries previously. If all goes well and without any kind of unplanned explosion, the reusable part of the Falcon 9 should touch down at around eight minutes post-launch.

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It’s also SpaceX’s third such launch for the U.S. government, with previous payloads including a spy satellite and the X-37B space plane.

SpaceX has scheduled a live feed of the launch on YouTube (we’ve embedded it below!) but you can also watch along on Space.com’s webcast page. It’s likely the feed will go live around 7:45pm ET, a few minutes prior to the launch window.

[TechCrunch/Space.com]

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