Watch India launch its biggest rocket yet.

I could write a lot about how India’s successful launch of their GSLV MK.3 is remarkable. It boasts the world’s second-largest booster rockets, and this was the first flight of their most powerful rocket. Its 2.2 million pounds of thrust delivered the 6,913-pound GSAT13 communications satellite into its transfer orbit without a hitch.

But it’s just plain cool to watch:

I actually got a little teary-eyed; seeing people achieve a great technical achievements like this is always a little moving. It’s also really interesting to compare how India’s space program, and its people, operate differently from our own.

SpaceX Sticks Another Landing

It’s been a busy weekend in the field of spaceflight!

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched the first re-used Dragon capsule to the International Space Station on Saturday, and it was flawless. The first-stage booster returned to its landing zone at Cape Canaveral, and again nailed its landing. This booster will be refurbished and re-used. Check out SpaceX’s Flickr stream for your next desktop wallpaper – there are lots of stunning photos of the launch there.

This was the 100th launch from Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A – you know, the same one Saturn V’s to the moon, and the Space Shuttle, took off from. It was SpaceX’s 35th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket, and the 7th this year.

The re-used Dragon capsule will be captured by the ISS at 10 AM this morning (Eastern time).

Yesterday, the Cygnus supply ship at the ISS undocked and began its return to Earth as well. After spending a week in orbit, it will re-enter on June 11.

India just launched its newest, most powerful rocket successfully, and we’ll cover that separately. Congratulations are in order for getting their heaviest satellite yet into geostationary transfer orbit!

Image credit: SpaceX

Paul Allen Just Rolled Out the Biggest Aircraft Ever

It’s hard to keep track of all the tech billionaires who are investing their fortunes into space technology. We know Elon Musk has SpaceX, Jeff Bezos has Blue Origin, and Richard Branson has Virgin Galactic. Did you forget about Paul Allen? Well his company, Vulcan Aerospace, reminded us all they’re still around in big way.

In the Mojave desert, they rolled out the Stratolaunch airplane – and it’s huge. With a wingspan of 385 feet, it blows away the previous record holder, Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose.

The plan is to use Stratolaunch to ferry spacecraft to very high altitudes under its belly, where they can then be launched that much closer to orbit and with some orbital velocity already established. It’s another way to lower launch costs, as the aircraft is of course re-usable, much like SpaceX’s booster stages. Stratolaunch has the advantage of being able to deliver multiple payloads to different orbits in the same mission.

This approach of launching spacecraft from a plane may not sound new, as Orbital ATK has been doing this for awhile now. Indeed, Stratolaunch is partnering with Orbital to use Orbital’s launch vehicles together with Stratolaunch’s aircraft.

These are indeed exciting times in space technology. One wonders what we might achieve if all of these billionaires and government were to team up toward a common project, but having a diverse set of technologies being developed independently has the nice benefit of “hedging our bets” as we reverse the downward trends of the US’s spaceflight capabilities.

Image credit: Stratolaunch Systems Corporation

Arianespace Sets New Launch Record

Although we like to talk a lot about US space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance – today history was made by the French company Arianespace.

The heaviest and costliest commercial payload launched successfully at 7:46 PM Eastern time today in French New Guinea. The ViaSat 2 and Eutelsat 172B satellites, produced by Boeing and Airbus, were placed into a geostationary transfer orbit on time and without incident. Together, the combined payload was 10,865 kg and worth an insured value of $800 million – both new records.

This is actually a bit of a blow for SpaceX, which was originally contracted to deliver the ViaSat 2 on a Falcon Heavy rocket. Delays in the development of the Falcon Heavy led to this satellite being switched to the Ariane 5 rocket instead.

It’s a good reminder that progress in space technology isn’t limited to the United States – many other countries have active, robust space programs of their own. And that’s a good thing. However, SpaceX fans can watch a scheduled resupply mission to the International Space Station just after 5 PM on Saturday! Tune into NASA TV for live coverage – although the weather forecast isn’t looking very cooperative.

Copyright 2017 Sundog Education, a brand of Sundog Software LLC.
Tech Nerd theme designed by Siteturner