UFO Buster Radio News – 373: Virgin Orbit Wheels Up, Discovery & Science Channel May 27th and, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft
Virgin Orbit to attempt 1st launch of LauncherOne rocket this weekend
LOS ANGELES — Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is targeting the coming weekend for its first attempt to launch a demonstration payload into space aboard a rocket released from beneath the wing of a Boeing 747.
Sunday will mark Virgin Orbit’s launch debut, if all goes according to plan.
Virgin Orbit plans to launch for the very first time just a few days from now.
The company is targeting Sunday (May 24) for its Launch Demo mission, with a backup opportunity on Monday (May 25). The four-hour window will open each day at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT), Virgin Orbit representatives announced today (May 20).
Launch Demo will be a huge milestone for Virgin Orbit, which has been developing its air-launch system for five years. That system involves a modified Boeing 747 jet called Cosmic Girl and a 70-foot-long (21 meters) rocket known as LauncherOne, which is capable of delivering about 1,100 lbs. (500 kilograms) to a variety of destinations in low Earth orbit.
During operational flights, Cosmic Girl will drop LauncherOne at an altitude of about 35,000 feet (10,700 m); the rocket will then make its own way to space.
Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne have flown together on many “captive-carry” tests, and the plane even dropped the rocket (on purpose) during one jaunt last July. But Launch Demo will mark the first time that LauncherOne fires up its engine mid-flight and aims for the heavens.
There’s certainly no guarantee that the rocket will make it all the way to orbit during Launch Demo, which will take off from Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California. Failure is the norm for inaugural launches of new spaceflight systems, Virgin Orbit representatives said, stressing that data collection is Launch Demo’s chief goal.
A Sunday or Monday liftoff for Virgin Orbit — which has already secured a three-launch, $35 million deal with the United States Space Force — would serve as a nice lead-in to another big spaceflight milestone.
NASA & Elon Musk’s SpaceX Launch Live: Discovery & Science Channel To Air Historic Liftoff & 2-Hour Docu; Katy Perry, Adam Savage & Mark Rober Among Guests
Space Launch Live: America Returns to Space starts at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. FL. Among the guests lined up for the program are singing star Katy Perry, Mythbusters host Adam Savage and NASA engineer-turned-YouTuber Mark Rober. A quartet of current and former astronauts and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will offer expert insight for the program, which also will feature an interview with astronaut Chris Cassidy from the International Space Station — where the SpaceX mission is headed.
“Discovery and Science Channel have spent over a year documenting SpaceX’s race to become the first private company to launch American astronauts into space,” said Scott Lewers, EVP Multiplatform Programming, Factual & Head of Content at Science. “Our live special offers both incredible access for the launch, and expert insight from SpaceX Founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk and other leading aerospace professionals.”
“In our two-hour documentary, we show the unbelievable engineering and scientific feats achieved by SpaceX in making such an historic launch happening during these unprecedented times of isolation,” Lewers said.
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, the crew of the first piloted SpaceX Crew Dragon launch for NASA, are scheduled to launch May 27 on a trip to the International Space Station. To gear up for that mission, called Demo-2, the astronauts flew to KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility from the Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base near Houston, Texas this afternoon.
NASA plan to sample asteroid Bennu delayed by coronavirus pandemic
After delays from the coronavirus pandemic, NASA has picked a date for its spacecraft to snatch up a chunk of space rock to bring home.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft mission is now expected to perform its first asteroid-sampling attempt to occur on Oct. 20. The procedure had previously been scheduled for August, but the mission team has decided to delay the maneuver because of limitations meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus-borne respiratory disease COVID-19.
“The OSIRIS-REx mission has been demonstrating the very essence of exploration by persevering through unexpected challenges,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said in a statement. “That spirit has led them to the cusp of the prize we all are waiting for — securing a sample of an asteroid to bring home to Earth, and I’m very excited to follow them through the home stretch.”
In response, the team shifted the sampling schedule by two months, with the second rehearsal now planned for Aug. 11 and the sampling itself planned for Oct. 20.
Either way, the spacecraft will remain at asteroid Bennu through the middle of next year, then embark on a two-year journey home. OSIRIS-REx’s sample container will deliver the space-rock sample back to Earth on Sept. 24, 2023.
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