SpaceX shipment arrives at International Space Station following weekend launch.A SpaceX shipment arrived at the International Space Station on Monday with a “cosmic catch” by a pair of Canadians. The Dragon capsule delivered 5,500 pounds (2,500 kilograms) of equipment and experiments.
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques used the station’s big robot arm — also made in Canada — to capture the Dragon approximately 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the North Atlantic Ocean. An external cable that normally comes off during launch dangled from the capsule, but it did not interfere with the grappling.
“Welcome on board, Dragon,” Saint-Jacques radioed. He congratulated ground teams for their help, in both English and French. Saint-Jacques later told Canadian schoolchildren it was “a big moment of pride” to grab the Dragon using the station’s 58-foot (18-meter) robot arm — Canada’s main contribution to the space station.
He became the first Canadian to use it to grab a visiting spacecraft — “a cosmic catch,” in the words of the Canadian Space Agency. “To be at the controls myself, after all these years of training, it was a very, very special moment — and, fortunately, it all went well,” Saint-Jacques told the schoolchildren later in the day.
It’s the second station visit for this recycled Dragon, which was launched by SpaceX on Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It also flew in 2017. This is SpaceX’s 17th delivery to the space station; the first was in 2012. Northrop Grumman is NASA’s other shipper; its Cygnus cargo ship arrived just two weeks ago.
The Dragon will remain about a month, being filled with science samples for return to Earth. It’s the only cargo ship capable of coming back intact. Besides one Canadian, the space station is home to three Americans and two Russians. (VOA)
SpaceX launched 60 mini satellites Monday, the second batch of an orbiting network meant to provide global internet coverage.
The Falcon rocket blasted into the morning sky, marking the unprecedented fourth flight of a booster for SpaceX. The compact flat-panel satellites – just 575 pounds (260 kilograms) each – will join 60 launched in May.
SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk wants to put thousands of these Starlink satellites in orbit, to offer high-speed internet service everywhere. He plans to start service next year in the northern U.S. and Canada, with global coverage for populated areas after 24 launches.
Last month, Musk used an orbiting Starlink satellite to send a tweet: “Whoa, it worked!!”
Employees gathered at company bases on both coasts cheered when the first-stage booster landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic.
“These boosters are designed to be used 10 times. Let’s turn it around for a fifth, guys,” company’s launch commentator said.
This also marked the first time SpaceX used a previously flown nose cone. The California-based company reuses rocket parts to cut costs.
Stacked flat inside the top of the rocket, the newest satellites were going to maneuver even higher following liftoff, using krypton-powered thrusters. SpaceX said there was a potential problem with one of the 60 that could prevent it from moving beyond its initial 174 mile-high (280 kilometer-high) orbit. In that case, the faulty satellite will be commanded to re-enter and burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere.
Each satellite has an autonomous system for dodging space junk. In September, however, the European Space Agency had to move one of its satellites out of the way of a Starlink satellite. SpaceX later said it corrected the problem.
SpaceX is among several companies interested in providing broadband internet coverage worldwide, especially in areas where it costs too much or is unreliable. Others include OneWeb and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.
According to Musk, Starlink revenue can help SpaceX develop rockets and spacecraft for traveling to Mars, his overriding ambition. (VOA)