The inaugural launch of SpaceX’s Starship captured our imagination, but the coming week reminds us of the company’s other heavy-lift launch vehicle: Falcon Heavy. We’re also anticipating a historic spacewalk and a potentially unprecedented commercial Moon landing.
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We’ve also got our eyes on two Falcon 9 launches, as SpaceX continues to build its internet megaconstellation.
A commercial Japanese lander will attempt a lunar landing
On Tuesday, Japanese company ispace could make history by becoming the first private company to successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon. Called Hakuto-R, the lander, which launched in December, is packed with an assortment of goodies, including the United Arab Emirates’ Rashid rover and a transformable ball-like robot developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the TOMY toy company. Success on Tuesday is not guaranteed; recall that Israel-based SpaceIL failed in its 2019 attempt to perform a soft lunar landing.
Read more: Lunar Lander Travels Deeper Into Space Than Any Other Commercial Spacecraft
A Falcon Heavy will attempt its second mission of the year
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy is scheduled to fly out from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Wednesday at 7:24 p.m. ET. The heavy-lift vehicle will attempt to deliver the ViaSat-3 Americas broadband communications satellite to a geostationary orbit.
The smaller Arcturus communications satellite is also coming along for the ride, as is a G-Space 1 (Nusantara H-1A) Earth-observing cubesat. This will be the second Falcon Heavy mission of 2023 and the sixth overall. Falcon Heavies are essentially three Falcon 9s strapped together, with the two side boosters typically attempting vertical landings after each launch. For this mission, however, the two side boosters will not be recovered, as Falcon Heavy’s payload is heavier than usual.
A pair of spacewalks outside the ISS
The coming week will feature two spacewalks, one on Tuesday and the other on Friday. For the first spacewalk, Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin will use Europe’s new robotic arm and Canadarm2 to transfer an airlock to the Nauka module.
The Friday spacewalk will feature United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who will become the first Arab to participate in a spacewalk. Al Neyadi will work alongside NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen to attempt to retrieve a communications antenna and replace it with the S1 Truss (an attachment point for external devices, such as solar arrays, radiators, etc.).
A pair of Falcon 9 launches
Space will attempt two launches of the medium-lift Falcon 9 next week. A launch from California’s Vandenberg SFB on Tuesday will send another batch of SpaceX Starlink satellites to orbit, while on Friday, a Falcon 9 will take off from Cape Canaveral and attempt to deliver the O3b mPOWER 3 and 4 communications satellites to medium Earth orbit.
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