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America's first black astronaut candidate will fly in New Shepard at age 90 - TWIRL #165

TWIRL logo in front of Blue Origin rocket
Background image via Blue Origin

We have several launches coming up this week but the most interesting will be Blue Origin’s New Shepard mission. We’ve seen this rocket take off before so that’s not too interesting, but the crew is. It’ll carry six tourists aboard including America’s first black astronaut candidate Ed Dwight who never got the chance to go to space. Now he will travel to the edge of space at the age of 90.

Sunday, 19 May

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9
  • When: 7:22 a.m. UTC
  • Where: California, US
  • Why: SpaceX will launch its Falcon 9 carrying the classified NROL-146 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. This mission marks the first phase of a new imaging satellite constellation built by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman. The satellite is supposedly built upon SpaceX’s Starshield satellite bus with Northrop Grumman providing sensors.

  • Who: Blue Origin
  • What: New Shepard
  • When: 1:30 p.m. UTC
  • Where: Texas, US
  • Why: Blue Origin will launch its New Shepard suborbital rocket in a mission named NS-25. The launch will carry a crew of six including venture capitalist Mason Angel, the founder of French craft brewery Brasserie Mont Blanc Sylvain Chiron, entrepreneur Kenneth L. Hess, retired accountant Carol Schaller, pilot and aviator Gopi Thotakura, and former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight who was selected as America’s first black astronaut candidate but never got the opportunity to fly to space.

Monday, 20 May

  • Who: CNSA
  • What: Long March 2D
  • When: 3:05 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Taiyuan, China
  • Why: The only thing we know about this mission is that the rocket will be carrying an unknown payload into orbit.

Wednesday, 22 May

  • Who: Rocket Lab
  • What: Electron
  • When: 7:15 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Mahia, New Zealand
  • Why: Rocket Lab will launch an Electron rocket carrying the first satellite of the Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment (PREFIRE) mission for NASA. Rocket Lab has subsequently named this mission “Ready, Aim, PREFIRE”.

With this mission, we will seek to fill knowledge gaps about how efficiently far-infrared heat is emitted by things like snow and sea ice and how clouds influence the escape of it into space. This data will improve polar and global climate models to help us better learn about the loss of polar ice and its contribution to the rising sea level.

Thursday, 23 May

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9
  • When: 2:45 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Florida, US
  • Why: SpaceX will launch 23 Starlink satellites into a low Earth orbit where it will beam internet back down to Earth for Starlink customers. This batch of satellites is known as Starlink Group 6-62. Each of the satellites also carried anti-reflective coatings so they are less disruptive to astronomers on Earth.

Saturday, 25 May

  • Who: Galactic Energy
  • What: Ceres 1S
  • When: 10:00 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Yellow Sea, China
  • Why: Galactic Energy will perform its first sea launch from the Haiyang Spaceport. The Ceres 1S rocket will be carrying the Tianqi 25-28 satellites for Guodian Gaoke’s low Earth orbit narrow-band Internet of Things constellation.

  • Who: United Launch Alliance (ULA)
  • What: Atlas V
  • When: 7:09 p.m. UTC
  • Where: Florida, US
  • Why: The Atlas V will launch the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft carrying a crew to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of NASA’s commercial crew program. The crew will include NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams.


  • The first launch we got last week was a Falcon 9 launch from SpaceX. It took off from Florida carrying 23 Starlink satellites. Following the successful launch, the Falcon 9’s first stage performed a landing so that it could be reused.
  • The second mission that took off was yet another Starlink mission. This time a Falcon 9 carrying 20 Starlink satellites was launched from California.
  • SpaceX was very busy this last week, the final rocket launch we got this week was a Falcon 9 carrying even more Starlink satellites before the first stage of the Falcon 9 landed.

That’s all we have for this week, be sure to check in next time!

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