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Two missions to the ISS will see a new batch of astronauts and cargo arrive - TWIRL #156

TWIRL logo in front of Dragon 2

We have quite a number of launches coming up this week, the most interesting is the Roscosmos mission sending astronauts up to the International Space Station, including the first Belarusian woman to go to space. The next most interesting is the SpaceX mission to send a Dragon 2 to the ISS carrying operational cargo.

Tuesday, 19 March

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9
  • When: 2:20 a.m. UTC
  • Where: California, US
  • Why: SpaceX will be launching 23 Starlink satellites into a low Earth orbit. This set of satellites is known as Starlink Group 7-16. You can use this identifier to track them in apps like ISS Detector. The first stage of the rocket will probably perform a landing too ready for reuse.

Wednesday, 20 March

  • Who: CNSA
  • What: Long March 8
  • When: 12:35 - 1:55 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Wenchang, China
  • Why: China will be using a Long March 8 rocket to launch the Queqiao 2 relay satellite for its Chang’e 6 lunar mission. It will ensure operators can speak to Chang’e 6 which will be roving on the far side of the moon.

Thursday, 21 March

  • Who: Rocket Lab
  • What: Electron
  • When: 5:15 - 11:30 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Virginia, US
  • Why: Rocket Lab will be launching an Electron rocket carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. The launch was acquired under the NRO’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract. The mission is dubbed Live and Let Fly by Rocket Lab.

  • Who: Roscosmos
  • What: Soyuz 2.1a
  • When: 1:21 p.m. UTC
  • Where: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
  • Why: Roscosmos will use one of its Soyuz rockets to launch a crew to the International Space Station. The crew consists of Oleg Novitsky, Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, and Marina Vasilevskaya (the first Belarusian woman in space). The capsule that docks at the ISS will remain there for six months and will be available as an escape pod if it’s needed.

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9
  • When: 8:54 p.m. UTC
  • Where: Florida, US
  • Why: SpaceX will be launching a Dragon 2 atop a Falcon 9 to the International Space Station. Unlike Russia’s launch, this will just be an operational cargo delivery to ensure astronauts have enough supplies in space. This mission is being conducted under a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

Friday, 22 March

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9
  • When: 12:20 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Florida, US
  • Why: SpaceX will be launching a Falcon 9 carrying 24 Starlink satellites to a low Earth orbit. This grouping is referred to as Starlink Group 6-42. They join the wider Starlink constellation in space to boost the coverage of SpaceX’s satellite internet service.


  • The first mission last week was on Sunday and it was a Falcon 9 carrying Starlink satellites to space. After the launch, the first stage of the rocket landed ready for reuse.
  • A mirror of the previous launch, SpaceX launched another Starlink mission.
  • Next, Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket carrying Synspective’s StriX-3 SAR satellite.
  • The fourth launch was a bit dramatic. SPACE ONE launched its KAIROS rocket but there was an anomaly that caused it to blow up.
  • The most interesting launch last week was the third test flight of SpaceX’s Starship which still had issued but made big progress over the last test flight.
  • Finally, SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 carrying Starlink satellites to boost its Starlink constellation.

That’s all for this week, check back next time.

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