NASA’s DART launches, new shiny Electron booster, and more top stories

On this Thanksgiving week we had some major events and updates come from the spaceflight industry. Catch up on what happened below.

NASA launches first planetary defense mission, DART

Late Tuesday night, SpaceX launched NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. The Falcon 9 took off from SLC-4E on Vandenberg’s Space Force Base in California and was the company’s first interplanetary mission.

DART lifting off from SLC-4E. Credit: SpaceX

DART will intercept with a small moonlet of the asteroid Dimorphos named Didymos. The goal is to see if impacting this small captured asteroid could change its orbit around Dimorphos. NASA’s reason for the DART mission is to test the technology and theory of redirecting an asteroid before a real threat to Earth is found.

DART is expected to reach its destination in September of 2022.

James Web Space Telescope slips to December 22 due to hardware issue

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is getting ready for its launch down in French Guiana. One step is to attach the telescope to the Ariane 5’s launch vehicle adapter. Arianespace began this step to secure Webb to the adapter’s ring clamp.

However, the clamp was accidentally released during mating, causing vibrations to move through the $10 billion telescope. This caused NASA to convene a review board to determine what caused the early clamp release and test Webb to ensure no damage was caused.

Luckily for Arianespace, who is in charge of Webb’s launch, no damage was found. Due to the additional time needed to test the telescope, Webb’s launch is now no earlier than December 22nd.

Blue Origin announces crew for third human New Shepard flight

On Wednesday, Blue Origin announced it would be launching a full crew of six on its next New Shepard flight, NS-19. In the past, we have only seen four crew members, but the capsule is designed to hold a total of six.

Onboard will be two guests invited by Blue Origin and four paying customers. The most notable members are the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard, Laura Shepard Churchley, and co-anchor of Good Morning America, Michael Strahan. These two crew members are not ticket holders but were invited to fly and will promote their charities as part of the flight.

Listed below are the other four crew members:

  • Dylan Taylor, CEO of Voyager Space
  • Evan Dick, Managing Member of Dick Holdings, LLC
  • Lane Bess, Founder of Bess Ventures and Advisory
  • Cameron Bess, Child of Lane Bess and content creator

Peter Beck praises reusability and shows off new Electron booster

In a press briefing, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck expressed his new thoughts on launch vehicle reusability. Once reluctant about reusing his rockets, Beck now states every new rocket should be designed from the ground up with reuse in mind.

This, of course, comes a while after his decision to begin Electron booster reuse. Of which the company has seen some success at, now preparing to attempt a catch via helicopter next year.

Beck also shared a new look for Electron’s first stage when in its reusable configuration. A new material added to the carbon fiber to help with heating now gives it a shiny look. Alongside a new red interstage, reusable Electrons will be hard to miss.

New Electron first stage booster used for reusable missions. Credit: Rocket Lab

Finally, Rocket Lab announced a significant update to the company’s medium-lift rocket Neutron next Thursday. Stay tuned for more info.

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