321 Launch: Space news you may have missed over the past week

·3 min read
An Astra rocket is seen at the company's Pacific Spaceport Complex facility in Kodiak, Alaska. The rocket launched its first commercial orbital mission for the Space Force on Nov. 21, 2021.
An Astra rocket is seen at the company's Pacific Spaceport Complex facility in Kodiak, Alaska. The rocket launched its first commercial orbital mission for the Space Force on Nov. 21, 2021.

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New firm to launch rockets from the Cape

Astra, an upstart launch provider with high-profile investors and dozens of contracts under its belt, will fly its next mission from the Space Coast.

The California-based small satellite launcher will become one of a select few to fly from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in January when its launch system boosts a $3.9 million NASA mission to orbit. An exact timeframe has not yet been approved by the range.

Hosting the Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 mission will be Launch Complex 46, a pad formerly used for military ballistic missile tests now operated by Space Florida, the state's spaceport authority. The agency over the years has turned LC-46 into a "plug-and-play" facility, meaning agile launchers like Astra don't need to construct a dedicated pad for their rocket and can instead use provided infrastructure.

NASA unveils new class of astronaut candidates

NASA announced its latest class of astronauts Monday, a slate of 10 men and women who will train for missions covering the expanse from low-Earth orbit to the moon.

Flanked by T-38 Talon jets to be used over their two-year training course at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, NASA officials introduced the 2021 class of six men and four women in front of their families, friends, and soon-to-be colleagues.

"Alone, each of these candidates certainly has the right stuff," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during the televised event. "But together, they represent exactly the creed of our country: E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one)."

NASA received more than 12,000 applications for the positions.

SpaceX launches more Starlink satellites

Time exposure over the skyline of Cocoa Beach of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the 32nd batch of Starlink internet satellites. The rocket launched at  6:12 p.m. Thursday evening from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Time exposure over the skyline of Cocoa Beach of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the 32nd batch of Starlink internet satellites. The rocket launched at 6:12 p.m. Thursday evening from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket boosted 48 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Thursday evening.

The 6:12 p.m. liftoff from Launch Complex 40 marked SpaceX's 32nd Starlink mission so far, meaning the company has launched nearly 2,000 of the flat-packed, internet-beaming satellites to low-Earth orbit. A successful landing on the Shortfall of Gravitas drone ship shortly after liftoff acted as a nightcap.

Unlike some recent launches, the nearly 100% "go" status for weather meant visibility was excellent for Thursday's launch. The light from Falcon 9's second stage Merlin vacuum engine could be seen for several minutes after liftoff.

Dozens and dozens of moon rocks unaccounted for

They are among the rarest items on Earth, worth millions of dollars on the black market.

They've been at the center of stings, swindles and high-profile heists.

Still others have been stashed away in garages or storage units untouched for years or possibly decades.

They've been handled by presidents and kings, dictators and mercenaries, school kids and scholars.

One example is in the Oval Office at the White House. Another is buried somewhere in a garbage dump outside Dublin, Ireland.

Yes, the Apollo moon rocks have continued to make intriguing journeys even a half century after making the quarter-million mile trip to Earth.

Read Florida Today's special report on missing moon rocks.

Did it launch?

An Atlas V carrying a Space Force science mission was slated to launch from Cape Canaveral early Tuesday morning. Check floridatoday.com to see if it lifted off.

A 25+ year veteran of FLORIDA TODAY, John McCarthy currently oversees the space team and special projects. Support quality local journalism by subscribing to FLORIDA TODAY. You can contact McCarthy at 321-752-5018 or jmccarthy@floridatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: 321 Launch: Space news you may have missed over the past week

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