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

January 15

How would history divert from reality if the United States had lost the Space Race to the Soviet Union in the 1960s? Ronald Moore’s “For All Mankind” on Apple TV+ explores an alternative timeline in which America is second to the Moon in season one of the sci-fi series.

“We’re concerned the Soviets might be trying to introduce a new weapon.” That’s how the alt history storyline picks up in the midst of a Cold War escalation during the 1980s in season two. Today we have the most detailed look at what unfolds next as NASA struggles with a takeover by the Department of Defense.

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January 14

Blue Origin is launching a New Shepard rocket for its NS-14 mission from West Texas today at 11:57 a.m. EST (16:57 UTC). NS-14 is the first mission for Jeff Bezos’ rocket company in 2021 and only the third New Shepard mission in the last 13 months.

In the future, Blue Origin plans to fly passengers on the New Shepard vehicle. The suborbital rocket travels to the Karman line that defines space then lands near the launch site. Passengers will see the planet from space and experience zero gravity for a few magical minutes before returning to the surface of Earth.

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January 8

SpaceX and Florida-based L3Harris were awarded Space Development Agency contracts to develop four missile tracking satellites each last October, but protests by competitors Raytheon and Airbus halted those contracts from moving forward in December. This week the SDA reached a conclusion after reevaluating submissions for the contracts.

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January 7

Joe Biden will become the next President of the United States on January 20, and the space community has questions. What does the new administration have planned for NASA’s Artemis program, how will the new commander-in-chief direct the U.S. Space Force, and will the Trump-revived National Space Council continue?

Another question to ask is how will a President Biden approach revisiting government facilities named after those with whom we do not share values. Biden will preside over renaming 10 military bases named after Confederate generals. This change gained bipartisan in Congress at the end of last year. What did not gain bipartisan support in 2020 is support for renaming NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

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January 7: VO now has a more firm date of Wednesday, January 13.

Virgin Orbit has announced the next test opportunity for its Launch Demo 2 mission from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The mission will test launching a rocket to space from the wing of an airplane.

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Virgin Galactic is developing a suborbital spaceplane called SpaceShipTwo Unity that is designed to fly passengers and payloads to zero gravity. A VSS Unity test flight in early December failed to reach space as intended, however, and now the company knows why.

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January 6

Today is a heartbreaking day in the United States, and one that affords us no room for progress. Political disagreement and passionate debate are features of democracy. Halting a peaceful transition of power and putting lives at risk is not. That’s spreading chaos and fear, and neither allow us the opportunity to dream.

You cannot dream when you are unable to divert your eyes from the video stream of Washington, DC, out of fear that people are not safe. You cannot dream if the thing you see when you close your eyes is people hurting people. It is a luxury to invest our energy into learning and thinking about solving the problems of tomorrow, and today we cannot afford that gift.

There was a moment this afternoon when I found comfort in watching the SpaceX Starship prototype livestream from Boca Chica. The launch site in South Texas that’s just a short walk from the beach and Gulf of Mexico provided peace in contrast to a debate in Washington over whether or not Congress should recognize the results of the 2020 presidential election.

On one screen I saw a longview that offered a glimpse of what’s possible when we work together on a common goal; on the other was a test of our democracy that was unnecessary but nevertheless prevailing. Then the safety of people of all political ideologies were seen at risk on national television and social media, and even the inspiring progress of a rocket that could change our reach beyond our planet could not compare.

Nor could sharing knowledge of accomplishments in space through storytelling. Days like today are not unprecedented, even if the specific actions of protesters in DC may be. Instead, heartbreaking moments in America are experiences we will continue to share, and progress will necessarily halt while we await a return to peace. This fact has to change if we want to see dreams in space and our goals of exploration fulfilled.

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Supersonic flight is set to make a comeback and go further than ever before in this decade. Today the Federal Aviation Administration published new guidance to support this effort by clarifying existing policy and potentially streamlining the regulatory side of supersonic testing.

The Department of Transportation currently does not authorize supersonic flight by default. This means developing and testing technology like Boom’s XB-1 supersonic jet will require special authorization from the DOT and FAA to fly over Mach 1 speeds.

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HP/Intel veteran Dr. Cheryl Shavers named to Voyager Space Holdings Board of Directors

Voyager Space Holdings has selected Dr. Cheryl Shavers to serve on the space investment company’s Board of Directors. Voyager recently made headlines for announcing plans to purchase the ambitious space firm Nanoracks.

Huntsville-based firm Dynetics announced today that is has completed the submission process for its Human Landing System proposal for NASA’s Artemis Moon program. If selected, the Leidos-owned subsidiary would be responsible for the vehicle used to take astronauts from the Orion capsule to the surface of the Moon.

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The Washington Post’s Christian Davenport reports that NASA is considering extending the mission duration of the Crew-1 astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi arrived at the station in mid-November. The four astronauts launched from Kennedy Space Center inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

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January 5

The Space Development Agency under the U.S. Department of Defense has awarded SpaceX a $150 million launch contract for two flights from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The first launch under the newly awarded contract is set for September 2022, and the second flight will take place not later than March 2023. Here’s the full announcement from the SDA:

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Buying a ticket to space has long been a dream that will soon become reality for some and a possibility for even more.

We’re very much in the early days of companies competing for customers who want to experience space firsthand, and 2021 is poised to be a pivotal year for companies including Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin for proving their technology is passenger-ready.

A new report published today predicts the size of the space tourism and travel market by 2030 based on the current pace of innovation. The upshot is that the number of space tourists among us could be measured in the tens of thousands by the end of the decade.

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January 4

SpaceX is positioned to conduct its first mission in 2021 with a Falcon 9 rocket as early as this week. Originally expected to target today, the 45th Weather Squadron has published a Launch Mission Execution Forecast for the Falcon 9 TurkSat-5A mission.

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In an interview with Observer, Nanoracks founder and CEO Jeff Manber dishes on his company’s ambitious plan to change how we treat dead rocket upper stages that make up the graveyard orbit around the planet.

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While it only feels like 2020 was the year that refused to end for so many, the men and women aboard the International Space Station really did see 2021 arrive only to slip back into the previous year … 16 times! NASA explains…

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December 28, 2020

It turns out Iron Man 2 isn’t just a classic entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The 2010 American superhero film is also a piece of SpaceX history, and not just because of the Elon Musk cameo with Tony Stark.

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December 27, 2020

Space Explored’s Zac Hall and Seth Kurkowski unpack the last week in launches from SpaceX’s SXM-7 mission to Astra’s first rocket reaching space, the latest status update on Space Launch System and the Artemis I mission around the Moon, Canada’s plans to send the first Canadian astronaut to the Moon, Space Force naming its members and gaining its first astronaut, three Crew-3 astronauts being named, updates on Amazon’s Project Kuiper and Blue Origin’s New Glenn Rocket, and much more.

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December 23, 2020

Virgin Orbit planned to conduct its second Launch Demo mission before the end of the year, but the spread of COVID-19 forced the team to halt pre-flight work this month. After following recommended safety guidelines, the team at Virgin Orbit is back on track, the company shared today. Virgin Orbit’s launch approach involves dropping a space-bound rocket called LauncherOne from the wing of a 747 plane named Cosmic Girl.

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Astronomers have observed a new dark spot on Neptune that’s affectionately being called Dark Spot Jr. While the Hubble Space Telescope-observed transient dark spot may be adorable from afar, The New York Times describes the treacherous nature of Neptune’s latest mini storm viewed from space.

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