November 18, 2019 • Evelyn J. Arevalo
Spaceflight enthusiasts - prepare - the Florida Space Coast will have an active holiday season filled with SpaceX missions! Experiencing a rocket engine roar of a breath-taking launch can make the perfect gift! Here's a rundown of SpaceX missions that are programmed to occur before this year ends.
International Space Station Resupply Mission
On December 4 at 12:48pm, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida. This mission is to take supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
The flight will include SpaceX's signature rocket booster landing at Landing Zone 1, about eight minutes after takeoff. It will become their 19th uncrewed flight to the ISS.
Resupply missions to the ISS deliver equipment for scientific investigations. Space station research through the ISS Lab can lead to breakthrough medical treatments, products that improve life on Earth, as well as the creation of new technologies for future human and robotic exploration in Earth orbit, on the Moon, Mars and beyond.
Aboard this SpaceX Dragon resupply mission is a next-generation spaceborne system to image Earth in higher spectral resolution than currently possible onboard the TERRA satellite. They are also delivering a device to separate and capture water droplets suspended in an air stream which astronauts will test. Also, some equipment to test conditions to develop an inexpensive and scalable process to manufacture optical materials in space will be launched on this mission.
JCSAT-18 / KACIFIC-1 Mission
SpaceX is scheduled to launch the JCSAT-18 / Kacific-1 communications satellite by December 15th. This mission will provide powerful commercial communications satellite internet which will broadcast signals over the Asia-Pacific region. It is a shared spacecraft between Sky Perfect JSAT Corp. of Japan and Kacific, a startup telecom company headquartered in Singapore. This new satellite will “provide the most powerful signal level ever achieved in a commercial satellite in the (Asia-Pacific) region,” Kacific said in a statement.
The JCSAT18/Kacific 1 spacecraft will stream broadband to 25 nations in Southeast Asia and in the Pacific islands, where distanced populations and extreme terrain make it difficult to build terrestrial internet stations and antenna structures. Kacific stated health care and emergency response services will highly benefit from this satellite's broadband network. Satellite will be launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket flying from the Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 40 in Florida (United States).
Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test
The following missions have a probability to be completed in December, though exact timing has not yet been established.
Next SpaceX mission will be, an In-Flight Abort (IFA) test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Crew Dragon was started in 2014 under a $2.6 billion contract with NASA as part of its Commercial Crew Program to launch astronauts to space from American soil. It is currently almost done its phase of development and under a series of tests. The next test, will be an uncrewed Dragon mission that will simulate a launch emergency "in-flight" in order to test the spacecraft's SuperDraco thrusters to rapidly propel away from the Falcon 9 rocket mid-air. The test is very important because the craft had an incident in April that resulted in the destruction of an identical craft, so in preparation for this next mission, Crew Dragon was successfully test fired on November 13th.
If the upcoming In-Flight Abort test is successful, it would pave the way for astronauts to fly to the ISS sometime around summer next year. It will be the FIRST SpaceX crewed mission to launch NASA astronauts!
Third Starlink Mission
Another mission is scheduled before the end of December, the deployment of the third batch of 60 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral. The exact timing hasn't been released yet. SpaceX is building a mega-constellation of up to 42,000 Starlink satellites. So far, the company has successfully deployed two batches of 60 satellites in May and November. Their goal is to provide internet services all over the globe to fund their space activities, which include developing their massive Starship rocket, colonizing Mars and building a permanent base on the Moon.