About the Author

Zac Hall


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

September 18

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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September 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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While it’s far too soon to claim that life has been discovered beyond our planet, a new scientific discovery provides a tantalizing clue that Venus may be the best place to search for extraterrestrial life. The Royal Astronomical Society announced today that phosphine molecules have been observed from Earth in the atmosphere of Venus.

Why does that matter? The phosphine molecule is created either artificially on Earth or “by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments,” as RAS describes.

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September 10

Sending the first woman and next man to the Moon isn’t the only lunar goal NASA has for 2024. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced today that the space agency is seeking a commercial company capable of collecting moon rocks for NASA to purchase.

The interesting twist is that the company or companies awarded contracts won’t be required to bring the Moon rocks back to Earth. The objective is simply to demonstrate commerce on the Moon as a concept toward building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface and beyond.

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August 28

ULA Delta IV Heavy from Launch Complex 34 (Photo credit: Seth Kurkowski for Space Explored)

Want to see a really massive rocket blast off to space in the middle of the night? United Launch Alliance is sending its massive Delta IV Heavy rocket to orbit overnight to deploy a classified payload from the National Reconnaissance Office Laboratory. Liftoff is set for 2:05 a.m. ET/11:05 p.m. PT overnight at the earliest.

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August 24

California-based launch company Rocket Lab experienced an unexpected loss of vehicle in space after a successful liftoff from New Zealand in July. The development halted Rocket Lab’s increasingly steady cadence of sending customer payloads to space, but a quick discovery of the issue at fault minimized the launch provider’s time grounded.

Later this week, Rocket Lab will attempt its 14th Electron rocket mission from Launch Complex 1 at the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The mission called ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical!’ will deploy a satellite called Sequoia for Capella Space.

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August 20

PHOTO DATE: August 11, 2020. LOCATION: Bldg. 9NW - SVMF. SUBJECT: Completed Blue Origin Lunar Lander Mockup in SVMF. PHOTOGRAPHER: Josh Valcarcel
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NASA plans to send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024, and the Artemis mission to do that will include a commercially developed lunar human landing system. In April, the agency awarded initial funding to three human landing system proposals that will compete to be selected for the mission.

SpaceX, Dynetics, and The National Team (Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper) were each awarded initial funding. Today, The National Team delivered on a major milestone in the process.

An engineering mockup of the Blue Origin-led human landing system has been delivered to the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

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Kurt Hughes wanted to be an astronaut, but poor vision prevented the boatbuilder from living that dream. While it may not be the Moon, Hughes applied his boatbuilding skills to creating his own lunar lander-style home that’s actually inhabitable.

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August 18

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s HTV-9 spacecraft will depart from the International Space Station for one last time today before the next generation of transfer cargo vehicles is readied in two years.

JAXA’s Kounotori spacecraft launched three months ago from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan to deliver four tons of supplies, including new space station lithium-ion batteries.

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August 18, 2020: SpaceX has raised $1,901,446,920, according to a SpaceX SEC filing. The $1.9 billion in new capital is SpaceX’s largest fundraising round to date. Story from July 23 below.

Elon Musk and SpaceX plan to raise additional capital for the private space exploration company at its highest valuation yet. Musk is reportedly in talks to raise around $1 billion in funding at $270 a share for SpaceX. The newest valuation puts SpaceX’s worth at $44 billion, a massive climb from $36 billion five months ago.

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SpaceX is attempting to set a new reusability record for its Falcon 9 rocket boosters today with its Starlink 10 mission. The Falcon 9 rocket first stage is designed to land after giving the second stage and payload a boost into space. Reusing first stage boosters helps reduce the cost of spaceflight.

If today’s launch is successful, SpaceX will achieve a new record for itself of reusing a booster for a total of six times. The first stage booster on today’s Falcon 9 rocket has been flown five times prior to today’s mission, with the earliest in September 2018.

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August 17

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter gets first boot in space

NASA‘s Mars helicopter Ingenuity successfully powered on and charged its batteries marking the first time the helicopter has been powered on in space. The batteries were charged to 35%, an optimal level to keep the batteries healthy during the journey to Mars.

Space Time is a new podcast from Space Explored, part of the 9to5Mac Network.

In this episode of Space Time, Daryl Sausse and Seth Kurkowski share their experience covering their first NASA mission for Space Explored during Mars 2020 launch week.

Subscribe to receive new episodes every Thursday: 🟣 Apple Podcasts 🟠 Overcast 🟢 Spotify 🔴 YouTube

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August 14

In a surprise decision made in May, NASA abruptly replaced its associate administrator in charge of human spaceflight eight days before flying astronauts with a commercial partner for the first time in history. While NASA didn’t cite a specific reason for Doug Loverro’s resignation, the outgoing human spaceflight lead suggested a single mistake was made:

The risks we take, whether technical, political, or persona, all have potential consequences if we judge them incorrectly. I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission. Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear consequences. 

Now the Wall Street Journal reports that federal prosecutors are investigating the incident:

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Remember the historic SpaceX rocket launch that sent NASA astronauts to the International Space Station earlier this summer? After the successful demonstration mission, SpaceX is almost ready to start sending astronauts to space regularly through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Today, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the next date when SpaceX will send a crew to the ISS. NASA is targeting no earlier than October 23, 2020, for the upcoming SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

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August 12

NASA’s Perseverance rover lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on July 30, but the Countdown to Mars is really only just starting. The rover’s months-long journey to Mars will continue through February 2021, then the next decade of Martian science and astrobiological discovery can begin. In this Dispatches from NASA installment, Space Explored captures the week that the Mars 2020 mission took flight in photos and video.

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The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico was still undergoing repairs from damage by Hurricane Maria three years ago when an auxiliary cable broke and took the telescope offline this week.

The observatory is managed by the University of Central Florida in partnership with Universidad Ana G. Méndez and Yang Enterprises Inc. NASA also relies on the telescope to support the Planetary Radar Project.

The broken cable slashed through the 1,000-foot-wide reflector dish this week, creating 100 feet of damage throughout the telescope.

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August 10

Ask any astronaut who has spent time aboard the International Space Station about the logistics of using the restroom in space, and you’ll likely hear the phrase “yesterday’s coffee is today’s coffee.” That’s a polite way of hinting at the water filtration system that recycles human waste for re-use as water. Lovely, right?

Now set your sights on the Moon and Mars, two destinations that are much further from the last restroom on Earth than the ISS, and the need to do something useful with all that waste is even more important.

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NASA will soon return astronauts to the Moon using an all-new vehicle called Space Launch System. Using a rocket that has never flown before requires lots of testing, as you can imagine, and many of those tests are quite dramatic — even if NASA is just testing some new soap.

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‘I’ll be right back’: Hillary Swank embarks on epic Mars mission in Netflix drama ‘Away’

The Summer of Mars doesn’t just include three flagship Martian missions from the U.S., UAE, and China. Netflix is launching its own Mars project with a dramatic space series called Away.

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