Top stories this week: Blue Origin fly oldest and youngest humans, Falcon Heavy to launch Europa Clipper, and more

This week, the focus has been on Blue Origin. On Tuesday, they completed the first crewed flight of New Shepard, flying the oldest and youngest person to ever visit space.

Blue Origin launch first human flight

On Tuesday, Blue Origin carried out the first crewed flight of their New Shepard vehicle. On board, were Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark Bezos. Jeff also invited legendary aviator Wally Funk and the first paying customer, Oliver Daemon. At 82 and 18 respectively, they are the oldest and youngest person to fly to space. Wally Funk is a legendary aviator, and one of the Mercury 13 who underwent the physical and mental testing to become an astronaut before women were allowed to.

With the launch arose some controversy about what it means to be an astronaut. The FAA updated their requirements for commercial astronauts to gain wings, but we still don’t have a definitive answer on whether this crew would meet them. The flight also featured many brand partnerships. Electric car company Rivian and the watch company Omega were some clear partners, but Skittles also teamed up with them. The candy flew in the crew capsule and later in the week, Skittles announced a limited edition candy they will be giving away on social media.

Starship Super Heavy completes first static fire

On Monday, SpaceX’s Super Heavy vehicle had its first static fire. This Super Heavy prototype, Booster 3, will not fly, but Booster 4 should be launching Starship late this year. With only 3 Raptors installed, this ignition won’t compare to the over 30 Raptors that will ignite on a completed Super Heavy rocket.

The three Raptors have since been removed. While Elon hinted at the possibility of a 9 raptor test fire, whether that will happen remains to be seen.

Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle returning to flight

Credit: Rocket Lab

Earlier this year, an Electron vehicle for Rocket Lab’s “Running Out Of Toes” mission failed during launch. Following an extensive investigation, Rocket Lab recently confirmed the reason for the failure of the second stage and has addressed the issue.

They have since completed a wet dress rehearsal for their, as of yet unannounced, next mission.

Falcon Heavy to launch Europa Clipper

NASA announced on Friday SpaceX was selected to launch the Europa Clipper mission on their Falcon Heavy rocket. The mission, which was originally going to launch on SLS, will instead be launched on a fully expendable Falcon Heavy with an additional kick stage.

The Europa Clipper is an interplanetary mission planned to launch in 2024. The spacecraft will go into orbit around Jupiter, and through a series of flybys study the moon Europa. It makes use of a number of imagination systems and various scientific payload with the goals of investigating both habitability and landing sites for a future Europa Lander.

‘Nauka’ science module launches to Space Station

The long-delayed research module ‘Nauka’ at last launched last week. The new module is expected to dock at the Space Station on the 29th. Following the launch, numerous issues with Nauka arose. These began with the orbit burn being delayed by 24 hours, but have continued with issues deploying a docking target. Thankfully, the issues now seem to be resolved. The Pirs module and Progress MS-16 will undock from the International Space Station and deorbit tomorrow to make room for the new module.

Boeing Starliner preparing for launch of OFT-2

This week, the second Orbital Flight Test of Boeings Starliner capsule will be launching on an Atlas V rocket. The flight readiness review has been completed and everything is looking good for the launch on Friday.

With the CST-100 capsule nearing launch, NASA Astronaut Matthew Dominick visited SLC-41 and shared an interesting insight into the vertical integration facility elevator. Rather than the typical numbering, the VIF has floors in between floors, to allow better access to the rockets where it may be needed.

Credit: Matthew Dominick

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