This Month in Space: August

From the new astronaut class being announced to President Trump’s new proposition for a sixth military branch for defense, the month of August has been out with the old and in with the new. It’s been a wild ride full of space exploration news and today we’re sharing some of the month’s top stories.

 

New NASA Astronaut Class

After years of hitching rides on foreign spacecrafts, NASA is now one step closer to launching astronauts into space from American soil for the first time since 2011. On August 3, NASA announced the nine crew members who will fly aboard the very first test flight missions on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

SpaceX is targeting November 2018 to do its first test flight. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner will be launched from Space Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Space Coast.

Amongst these nine astronauts, eight of them were chosen from NASA and one was chosen from Boeing. Eric Boe, Christopher J. Ferguson, Nicole Mann, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Josh Cassada, Suni Williams, Mike Hopkins, and Victor Glover are the names of the brave astronauts who will lead the United States into this new era of space exploration.

 

Trump Proposes Space Force as Sixth Military Branch

President Trump has proposed to create a sixth military branch, the military space force.

Although the term “military space force” is reminiscent of intergalactic battles and light sabers, the President’s vision is more along the lines of a force that would counter satellite and missile threats from foreign countries.

After a speech by Vice President Pence at the Pentagon on August 9, it’s become clear that a galactic space force has evolved from speculation into full-fledged plan with the hopes that the force will be operational by 2020.

 

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches Merah Putih Into Orbit

In the early hours of August 7, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket deployed satellite Merah Putih into a high geostationary transfer orbit.

The name Merah Putih was inspired by the Indonesian flag, representing the country for which the satellite will be providing telecommunication services for. This was the first Block 5 Falcon 9 that SpaceX was able to successfully reuse and land on a drone ship, meaning that SpaceX will be able to use the rocket for an eventual third flight.

The rocket’s successful return to the drone ship means that the Block 5 Falcon 9 will be reusable for up to 100 times, making it a prime candidate for future commercial flights.

 

NASA Parker Solar Probe Makes its Way to the Sun

NASA’s $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe shook the up the Space Coast on August 12 aboard ULA’s Delta IV Heavy rocket.

The Parker Solar Probe’s mission is to get within 3.83 million miles of the solar surface, orbiting through the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona. This probe will be the first to reach such a proximity to the sun.

The hope for the Parker Solar Probe is that it will uncover many of the sun’s longstanding mysteries. Astrophysicist Eugene Parker, from whom the probe’s name is derived, witnessed the launch at Cape Canaveral.

Parker, who is 91 years old, was the astrophysicist who predicted the existence of the solar winds that the probe will be studying. Although he found the launch moving, Parker said his main focus is the data from the mission that is to begin arriving in early November. Parker is the first living person to have a NASA mission to be named after him.

 

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