SpaceX is gearing up for launch of an unpiloted Crew Dragon spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center for a crucial test of the crew capsule’s launch abort system. A modified Falcon 9 rocket performed a test-firing at launch pad 39A Saturday before carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft into the upper atmosphere for an in-flight abort test scheduled for Jan. 18.
A Chinese Long March 3B rocket launched a satellite Tuesday toward a position in geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles above Earth. Chinese state media claimed the mysterious spacecraft has a communication and television broadcast mission, but analysts believe it could enter service for the Chinese military.
A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule concluded a 30-day stay at the International Space Station Tuesday with an automated departure from the orbiting research outpost at 5:05 a.m. EST (1005 GMT) Tuesday. The Dragon’s release from the robotic arm set the stage for a scorching re-entry and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Los Angeles at around 10:41 a.m. EST (1541 GMT).
Sixty more satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink global Internet network streaked into orbit Monday night from Cape Canaveral, including one spacecraft to test an experimental dark coating to address scientists’ concerns that the thousands of the quarter-ton, flat-panel satellites will impede astronomical observations.