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

April 9

The International Space Station is designed to always be crewed by cosmonauts and astronauts. For this reason, women and men have been living and working in space constantly since the first Expedition mission in the year 2000. So how many people are in space right now?

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February 26

If a dog is man’s best friend, can a robot dog named Zeus be best friends with a rocket to Mars? We’d like to believe so, and that’s what appears to be happening in South Texas.

LabPadre who documents SpaceX activity at its Boca Chica facility caught footage of what appears to be a Boston Dynamics-made robot dog running around the Starship test site.

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February 15

Apple launches first TV+ companion podcast with ‘For All Mankind’ series in time for second season

Apple is launching its first podcast series connected to an original series on its Apple TV+ video streaming service. For All Mankind: The Official Podcast is hosted by actor Krys Marshall, who plays astronaut Danielle Poole on the show. The weekly podcast series will include interviews with more cast members, space experts, and former astronauts.

February 2

Launch service startup Astra successfully reached space with its Rocket 3.2 vehicle for the first time in December. Now the satellite launch company is setting its sights on a new target: the New York Stock Exchange. Astra plans to join the small but growing list of publicly traded space companies this year.

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February 1

SpaceX will conduct its third mission to send astronauts to space on April 20 from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will send two NASA astronauts, one JAXA astronaut, and one ESA astronaut to the International Space Station. The mission called Crew-2 will be the first SpaceX flight for a European Space Agency astronaut and the second for a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut.

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January 26

Axiom Space has assembled the first private crew bound for the International Space Station. Three investors turned Axiom customers will join a former NASA astronaut to conduct a non-government mission in space. The mission dubbed Ax-1 will rely on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft to transport the four men to and from the space station.

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January 25

Boeing is positioned to start flying astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA as soon as this year, but the Starliner spacecraft must complete an orbital flight test without crew. NASA and Boeing now have a new date set for when the OFT-2 mission will be conducted. If successful, Boeing’s Starliner will join SpaceX’s Crew Dragon in transporting astronauts from the U.S. to the ISS for NASA’s Commercial Crew program.

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Jim Bridenstine lands at aerospace investment firm in post-NASA gig

Republican Congressman from Oklahoma turned NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has already found his next gig after resigning from the space agency to make way for the next NASA leader.

January 20

Steve Jurczyk becomes Acting Administrator of NASA as Jim Bridenstine shares farewell video

The United States has a new President, and NASA has a new top boss. NASA’s Associate Administrator has been elevated to the position of Acting Administrator following the resignation of Jim Bridenstine.

SpaceX successfully launched its latest Starlink mission today while setting a new record for reusing a Falcon 9 first stage booster. Starlink is SpaceX’s growing satellite internet service, and SpaceX uses these missions to deploy up to 60 of its own satellites into orbit as test beds for pushing booster re-flight records.

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January 18

NASA is returning astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program ended in the 1970s, but first the space agency must develop a new rocket capable of reaching lunar orbit. Space Launch System is that rocket, and it’s been in development for several years.

Over the weekend, NASA’s Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi conducted a critical engine test on the core stage of Space Launch System and its four RS-25 engines. While these engines aren’t new — they actually date back to use on the space shuttle — but being configured on a rocket to the Moon is untested.

The epic engine test wasn’t a total success, however, as the vehicle detected an anomaly and stopped firing its engines well before the required test duration. The good news is NASA says both the rocket core stage and its engines remain in good shape.

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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.

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