About the Author

Zac Hall

@apollozac

Space Reporter at Space Explored

Zac Hall covers NASA, SpaceX, and all space exploration news for Space Explored, part of the 9to5 Network.

Zac has also been published in the Clarion-Ledger newspaper, part of the USA Today network, and has covered Apple news and technology at 9to5Mac since 2013.

He also hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts on the 9to5Mac Podcast Network.

Zac lives in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, with his wife and two kids, where he enjoys running, cycling, his dog Apollo, and two ducks Artemis and Gemini.

Email tips, pitches, typos, and feedback to Zac@SpaceExplored.com.

Follow: Twitter @apollozac + Instagram @apollozac

Today

NASA and Boeing tentatively planned to complete the green run test for the core stage of Space Launch System on November 14. Then, Mother Nature introduced Hurricane Zeta. Now, NASA’s Stennis Space Center in southeast Mississippi is hunkering down for the third time this year as hurricane wind speeds around 110 mph approach.

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Launch day has arrived for Rocket Lab’s ‘In Focus’ mission to send Canon Electronics and Planet satellites to space. ‘In Focus’ marks Rocket Lab’s 15th flight of its Electron rocket from its launch complex at the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. View the launch below:

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Politico has published a new piece on what to expect for NASA from a Biden administration. The former vice president is expected to maintain a number of Trump directives including Space Force and the Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon. The administration change would likely mean a NASA administrator change as well, however, with Biden said to be planning to appoint the first female NASA administrator.

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October 27

While SpaceX routinely launches Falcon 9 rockets into orbit, Elon Musk’s space exploration company has a more down to Earth launch on the books today. Starlink, the internet satellite service being built by SpaceX, has reached public beta for new testers. Early customers can manage the sat-based wifi experience from newly launched Starlink apps for iPhone and Android.

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October 22

Starlink launch. Photo credit: Daryl Sausse
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SpaceX will attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket today at 12:14 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX is sending its fourteenth batch of Starlink satellites to space. These satellites will be used for a new global broadband service that will focus on bringing internet connectivity to underserved areas.

Falcon 9’s first stage will land autonomously on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean about 8 minutes after liftoff. Satellite deployment will occur roughly one hour after takeoff.

Watch the launch, landing, and deployment below.

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October 21

Space Force selects General Stephen N. Whiting to lead Space Operations Command

US Space Force Chief of Space Operations General Jay Raymond has selected General Stephen N. Whiting to serve as Space Operations Command. General Whiting previously served as Deputy Commander, Headquarters United States Space Force.

$75K robot dog used by SpaceX will be upgraded with arm and self-charging dock in 2021

Can anyone give a dog a hand? That’ll be a yes from Boston Dynamics, makers of $75K robot dogs named Spot. The advanced robotics company plans to upgrade its line of remote operated inspection robots next year with two new accessories.

How is this for a tantalizing teaser? NASA plans to announce a new discovery about Earth’s Moon on Monday, October 26. No details on what the announcement will include beyond ‘new science details,’ but the discovery is credited to NASA’s custom 747 named SOFIA.

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‘Climate from Space’ is a new and interactive online tool for visualizing how Earth’s climate has changed over the last five decades. Built by the European Space Agency, the new website relies on data collected by Earth-orbiting satellites from the 1970s to present day. ESA’s Climate Change initiative composed the data from 21 suites of climate data records.

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October 20

NASA is returning astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the final Apollo mission took flight in 1972. The new Artemis program currently includes three missions starting with an uncrewed lunar flyby mission to test the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft as soon as next year. The second Artemis spaceflight mission will introduce astronauts, and the third mission will make history as the first woman steps foot on the Moon.

Each Space Launch System rocket will lift off from Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Today NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems team practiced moving the mobile launcher, a 380-foot-tall structure, to the launch pad where EGS will “complete a thorough top-to-bottom washdown, removing any FOD, or foreign object debris, as an added safety measure in addition to the walk downs performed prior to launch.”

Space Explored photographer Jared Base attended NASA’s sunrise mobile launcher rollout today and captured up-close shots and video of the 10.5 million pound structure traveling from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39B.

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Update: Contact and blast successful! NASA will know on Saturday if a correct amount of sample was captured.

Update 2: First images captured of the touch and go attempt:


NASA launched its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on a ULA Atlas V rocket four years ago. OSIRIS-REx is no dinosaur — it stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer — but its destination is a 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid named Bennu.

OSIRIS-REx began its seven-year mission in 2016 with a goal of capturing an ancient soil sample from the surface of Bennu on October 20, 2020. The spacecraft won’t land on Bennu. Instead, OSIRIS-REx will extend an arm that barely touches the surface to “Touch And Go,” or TAG, and collect rocks before returning to Earth.

The first attempt is scheduled to occur on Tuesday afternoon at 6:12 p.m. ET; live coverage from NASA starts at 5 p.m. ET. The space agency expects to know how the first attempt went within a week based on measuring changes in the mass of the spacecraft’s payload.

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Microsoft has announced plans to take its Azure cloud computing ecosystem to orbit with its new Azure Space platform. Enterprise customers heavily rely on Azure data centers for server-based services. The latest expansion makes Microsoft’s platform fit for space missions and beyond. Microsoft will also partner with SpaceX for its low Earth orbit broadband satellite constellation known as Starlink.

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October 19

Christina Koch and Jessica Meir land in Guinness World Records 2021 for historic all-female spacewalk

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history on October 18, 2019, when the two spacewomen completed the first all-female spacewalk. Now, both women are being recognized for their achievements in space by the Guinness World Records.

NASA recently unveiled the winners of its fifth round of Tipping Point technology innovators. Most funding goes toward demonstrating ways to refuel vehicles in space for sending heavier payloads to the Moon. One experiment being funded by NASA, however, is focused on bringing an essential Earth experience to space.

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October 18

SpaceX will attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center on Sunday at 8:25 a.m. EDT. SpaceX is sending its fourteenth batch of Starlink satellites to space. These satellites will be used for a new global broadband service that will focus on bringing internet connectivity to underserved areas.

Falcon 9’s first stage will land autonomously on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean about 8 minutes after liftoff. Satellite deployment will occur roughly one hour after takeoff.

Watch the launch, landing, and deployment below.

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October 15

NASA is awarding 14 US companies a combined $370 million to develop new technologies that benefit future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The funding is part of the space agency’s Tipping Point initiative which seeks public-private partnerships to foster space commerce and technology at a reduced cost to the government.

SpaceX is among the highest paid recipients selected by NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation for a future demonstration of transferring rocket fuel in space using Starship.

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October 13

October 5: Six of eight steps have been completed. NASA plans to conduct the final step, an 8-minute long hot fire test, in November.

October 13: Boeing is tentatively planning the hot fire test for November 14.


Just north of Interstate I-10 along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is a gigantic, orange core stage that will soon be used to send NASA’s most powerful rocket ever to the Moon. The 212-foot-tall core stage of Space Launch System, the vehicle for Artemis lunar missions starting next year, is currently hoisted up on the red, white, and meatball’d B-2 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center.

Engineers at the space center in south Mississippi are responsible for ensuring that the giant fuel tank and RS-25 engines are ready for action before being transferred to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Steps range from testing flight electronics to loading and draining 350 tons of rocket fuel.

The ultimate step in the Green Run test is to fire up the four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines fueled by the core stage. The static fire test will occur for up to eight minutes, creating a thunderous roar as the SLS core stage is held down by the B-2 Test Stand. Make no mistake: This engine test fire will be epic.

So how far along is NASA’s Green Run test for the Space Launch System core stage? Follow along here as NASA completes each step of the Green Run test:

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October 13: Launch day has arrived! Tune in below!

October 12: Launch attempt now set for October 13 at 9:35 a.m. ET.

September 24: Launch scrubbed due to power supply issue.

September 22: Now official for September 24 at 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT.

September 18: Space Explored has learned that Blue Origin is targeting Wednesday, September 23, for this launch. The suborbital flight test will also include NASA technology to enable precision landing without a pilot, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine revealed on Friday, September 18. This autonomous landing tech is intended for use for a lunar landing system. Original story from August 10, 2020 below.


Blue Origin, the rocket company created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, appears to be planning its first sub-orbital flight of 2020. Space Explored has learned that Blue Origin is planning to attempt the 13th launch of its New Shepard vehicle in September.

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October 10

October 10, 2020: Crew-1 mission now targeting no earlier than early-to-mid November for liftoff. SpaceX will use the additional time to resolve an issue discovered on a non-NASA mission. Original story below.

Four astronauts will leave Earth for a six-month stay on the International Space Station shortly after midnight in the early hours of Halloween morning. NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi will serve on the SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

The upcoming mission is a major milestone for NASA, SpaceX, and American spaceflight capabilities.

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October 7

NASA astronaut and veteran Space Shuttle commander Chris Ferguson announced on Wednesday that he will not fly on the first flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft in 2021. Ferguson forfeited his seat on CST-100 (Crew Space Transportation) Starliner due to family obligations on Earth next year.

Boeing was originally expected to complete its first crewed test flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program sooner than 2021, but a series of missteps led to an unsuccessful mission that required docking to the International Space Station in December 2019. Boeing is expected to re-attempt its uncrewed ISS docking mission with Starliner at the end of this year.

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