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Jan. 7: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the Turksat 5A communications satellite for the Turkish satellite operator, Turksat. Lift off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station was delayed for 45 minutes past the original 8:28 PM time slot due to a down range tracking station issue
SpaceX plans to get even more ambitious with its pinpoint rocket landings.
Elon Musk's company routinely recovers and reuses the first stages of its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, bringing the boosters down for soft vertical landingsabout 9 minutes after liftoff on ground near the launch pad or on autonomous "drone ships" in the ocean.
These touchdowns are impressively precise. But SpaceX aims to achieve something truly mind-blowing with Starship, the next-generation system the company is developing to take people and payloads to the moon, Mars and other distant destinations.
SpaceX's Starlink megaconstellation is designed to provide global broadband coverage for high-speed internet access, particularly for people in rural and remote areas. Each of the flat-panel Starlink satellites weighs roughly a quarter-ton and are built in-house at a SpaceX facility in Redmond, Washington. (The company also manufactures its own own user terminals and ground stations.) While SpaceX expects its initial set of Starlink satellites to be 1,440 strong, the company has plans to launch thousands more. Company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said SpaceX needs between 500 and 800 satellites in orbit before service can begin to roll out. SpaceX is inching closer and closer to that goal, as it has delivered nearly 800 into orbit so far.
The Federal Communications Commission has granted SpaceX permission to launch as many as 12,000 of the flat-panel broadband satellites, but SpaceX may not stop there. The company has indicated it will see approval to launch as many as 30,000 of its internet-beaming satellites to beam down high-speed, low-latency Internet signals.
NASA's mission to the Red Planet
Perseverance’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of past microbial life on Mars and characterize the planet's climate and geology. It will also collect rock and soil samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
"Fifty-one years ago..., NASA was deep into final preparations for the first Moon landing," said Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "Today we stand at the threshold of another monumental moment in exploration: sample collection at Mars. As we celebrate the heroes of Apollo 11 today, future generations may well recognize the women and men of Perseverance — not only for what they will achieve 100 million miles from home, but for what they were able to accomplish on this world on the road to launch."
Perseverance is scheduled to land at Mars' Jezero Crater, Feb. 18, 2021
On Dec 16, NASA awarded Blue Origin a NASA Launch Services II (NLS II) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract to launch planetary, Earth observation, exploration, and scientific satellites for the agency aboard New Glenn, Blue Origin’s orbital reusable launch vehicle. The contract allows Blue Origin to compete for missions through Launch Service Task Orders issued by NASA. Project managers at NASA Centers around the country can now design spacecraft to take advantage of New Glenn’s unique seven-meter fairing and heavy-lift performance for a broad range of missions.
“We are proud to be in NASA’s launch services catalog and look forward to providing reliable launches for future NASA missions aboard New Glenn for years to come. The award builds on Blue Origin’s existing partnership with NASA and will advance science and exploration to benefit Earth,” said Jarrett Jones, senior vice president, New Glenn, Blue Origin.
New Glenn is a single-configuration, operationally reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle powered by seven BE-4 liquefied natural gas rocket engines. The vehicle’s seven-meter fairing provides more than double the usable volume of any existing launch vehicle.