There are a handful of fairly routine rocket launches this week but it’s worth mentioning that the remains of the Long March-5B Y2 carrier rocket, which launched the Chinese Space Station recently, landed in the Indian Ocean luckily missing populated areas. In response to the rocket’s remains falling back to Earth in the uncontrolled manner that they did, the United States government called for “responsible space behaviors.”
Friday, May 14
It’s going to be quiet for most of next week in terms of rocket launches but from Friday we could see up to four launches. On Friday, there is one mission marked with ‘no earlier than’ which means Friday is the earliest time the mission will launch but it could come later. The mission in question will see Virgin Galactic launch its VSS Unity rocketplane carrying several revenue-generating payloads as part of the NASA flight opportunities program.
The possible launch of VSS Unity was mentioned in last week’s edition of TWIRL with a no earlier than launch penned in for May 5. The launch did not go ahead last week and is now due on Friday or later.
Saturday, May 15
On Saturday, there are two missions marked with no earlier than and one more definite launch. The two marked as NET are Northrup Grumman’s TacRL-2 mission, which was mentioned in TWIRL 10, and Rocket Lab’s ‘Running Out of Toes’ mission that will carry two BlackSky satellites into orbit. SpaceX has its Starlink 26 mission marked for Saturday too.
The BlackSky satellites that Rocket Lab aims to launch will be part of a constellation that can capture 1000 images per day in four bands and panchromatic mode at 1-metre resolution. The two satellites going up are newer Block 2.1 satellites which come with increased solar arrays that will deliver more power to the satellite. In all, BlackSky will operate 60 satellites that it will renew every three years.
The SpaceX Starlink 26 mission will carry 60 Starlink satellites into orbit which will join the existing Starlink satellites in beaming internet connectivity to subscribers back on Earth. As a secondary payload, there will be two Capella Space satellites aboard too.
SpaceX Starlink 25
Originally scheduled for a launch last Tuesday, SpaceX finally managed to launch its Starlink 25 mission earlier today. The recorded stream is now available to watch below: