Top stories this week: Richard Branson vs. Jeff Bezos, Transporter-2 launch, SLS pathfinder at museum

This has been a busy week for space news. We’ve had three launches, billionaires announcing their flights to space, SLS pathfinder is on the move, and Wally Funk will fly to space very soon.

Launches

SpaceX – Transporter-2

On Wednesday, SpaceX launched the second of their dedicated rideshare missions, Transporter-2. This launch featured a Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and a return to launch site landing at LZ-1. The successful launch brought all 88 payloads, including 3 Starlink satellites, into Sun-synchronous orbit.

The RTLS landing brought with it thundering sonic booms, and allowed the Space Explored team to capture some excellent photos throughout flight.

Virgin Orbit – Tubular Bells: Part One

Virgin Orbits launch of Tubular Bells: Part One occurred on Wednesday, just a few hours before Transporter-2. Their air-launch rocket, Launcher One, deployed from the airplane Cosmic Girl at 10:47 a.m. EDT and carried several small-sats into orbit. This was the first operational launch of Launcher One, following their demonstration mission in January.

OneWeb Launch#8

Starlink competitor OneWeb launched on Thursday. A Soyuz rocket launching from Vostochny Cosmodrome carried 36 more of their satellites into orbit. This latest launch will allow OneWeb to begin providing internet coverage to far north latitudes.

Richard Branson vs. Jeff Bezos: Battle of the space billionaires

After Virgin Galactic gained it’s full launch license, it seemed possible that the Billionaire founder of the company, Richard Branson, could take flight and reach space before fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos. On Thursday we learned that he plans to do just that. Virgin Galactic announced that they will fly Richard Branson to space on July 11th, nine days before New Shepard launches to space. The six-person team will be launching to space in less than a week.

SLS Pathfinder arrives at Museum

On Friday, we exclusively shared that the SLS Pathfinder is on its way to a museum..

SLS Pathfinder at NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building in 2019; the base segment will be preserved

The pathfinder is a scale size model of SLS, which was used to test and validate the procedures in the Vehicle Assembly building. The base portion of the Pathfinder recently departed NASA’s Michoud Assembly Building. The remainder of the Pathfinder will be scrapped.

Wally Funk to fly on New Shepard

Jeff Bezos has always been a fan of space history, so it’s fitting to learn that Legendary Aviator Wally Funk will be joining him on the flight of New Shepard later this month. Wally Funk broke boundaries of the time. She was the first female FAA inspector, first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, first female air safety investigator for the NTSB. She was also one of the famous Mercury 13.

Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman; credit: NASA

At a time when women were not permitted in the astronaut program, Mercury 13 was the name given to the 13 women who graduated from the privately funded Women in Space Program. They underwent the same screening as the astronauts selected by NASA, but were never provided the opportunity to go to space.

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