A Proton booster rocketed away from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazaskhtan Wednesday with a Eutelsat television broadcasting craft and the satellite industry’s first commercial in-space servicing vehicle. The successful launch marked the first commercial Proton mission under the auspices of International Launch Services in more than two years.
Boeing officials said Wednesday that the company is targeting Dec. 17 for the launch of the first unpiloted orbital test flight of the new Starliner crew capsule from Cape Canaveral on a week-long demonstration mission to the International Space Station, a precursor to a mission with astronauts next year.
After a 24-hour delay due to poor weather, an air-launched Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket fired into orbit at 9:59 p.m. EDT Thursday (0159 GMT Friday) after release from a carrier jet at an altitude of 39,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Cape Canaveral. The Pegasus rocket carried NASA’s ICON satellite into orbit to collect measurements of the ionosphere.
A Russian Proton rocket lifted off at 1017 GMT (6:17 a.m. EDT) Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodorme in Kazakhstan. After a marathon 16-hour-long launch sequence, the Proton and its Breeze M upper stage will deploy the Eutelsat 5 West B video broadcast satellite and a robotic satellite servicing payload aiming to attempt the first-ever docking in geosynchronous orbit.
After a year-long delay to troubleshoot recurring erroneous data signatures from the rudder of Northrop Grumman’s air-launched Pegasus XL rocket, NASA is eager to send a $252 million research satellite into orbit as soon as Thursday night off Florida’s east coast on a mission to probe the ionosphere, a region near the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
Joe Anderson, vice president of business development and operations at Space Logistics LLC, recently discussed the company’s first Mission Extension Vehicle in an interview with Spaceflight Now. The first Mission Extension Vehicle is launching on the first commercial satellite servicing mission to dock with an Intelsat communications craft in geostationary orbit.
Companies have until Nov. 1 to submit proposals to NASA for a human-rated lander that could be ready in time to carry astronauts to the moon’s surface by the end of 2024, and the agency is leaving open the option for contractors to develop a descent craft that would bypass the planned Gateway mini-space station in lunar orbit, at least for the first landing attempt.