A nearly three-month stoppage of on-site work due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus at NASA’s Marshall Space Fight Center in Alabama is expected to push back the launch of the IXPE X-ray astronomy satellite from May 2021 until some time later next year, a senior space agency official said.
SpaceX is preparing for liftoff Tuesday of its first mission for the U.S. Space Force, a launch from Cape Canaveral that will deploy a new GPS navigation satellite using a redesigned profile to allow the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster to reserve enough propellant for landing on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite a growing number of rocket options, the availability of on-time launch services remains a key factor in getting BlackSky’s constellation of Earth-imaging smallsats into orbit. SpaceX’s rideshare launch service will give BlackSky a chance to add two more spacecraft to its fleet on a Falcon 9 rocket with the next batch of Starlink Internet payloads.
Space station commander Chris Cassidy and Robert Behnken plan to float outside Friday for the first of up to four spacewalks needed to complete the replacement of aging batteries in the lab’s solar power system. NASA managers hope to get the work done in time for Behnken and crewmate Douglas Hurley to return to Earth aboard their Crew Dragon capsule by around Aug. 2, officials said Wednesday.