Today’s Tidbits: November 3, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: November 3, 2017

Here are our tidbits for November 3,2017:  60th anniversary of the first female to orbit Earth; launch delay for ICON; next Long March 5 launch possible in 2Q of 2018.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

60th Anniversary of the Launch of the First Female into Orbit — Laika

Sixty years ago today the Soviet Union sent the first female into orbit — the dog Laika. The launch came just a month after the Soviets orbited the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, and made clear that it was paving the way to launch people into space, too.  Indeed, the Soviets launched the first human (Yuri Gagarin) into space three-and-a-half years later (April 12, 1961).

The United States used chimpanzees as test subjects prior to human flights, but the Soviets used dogs.  Laika was the first sent into orbit.  The Soviets did not know how to return spacecraft to Earth at the time, so her fate was sealed as soon as she lifted off the launch pad. The plan was for her to survive for a week, but she died of overheating after just four orbits.

ICON Launch Delayed

The launch of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands has been postponed until next year.  The launch was scheduled for December 8 on an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL air-launched rocket, but a problem developed with the “separation component” of the rocket according to NASA’s announcement today [].  A new launch date was not provided.

China’s Long March 5 Return to Flight Next Spring?

Andrew Jones of reports that China may launch its next Long March 5 rocket in the second quarter of 2018, perhaps in May.  Long March 5 is China’s most capable booster, able to place 25 metric tons (MT)  into low Earth orbit (LEO).  It was successful on its maiden flight exactly one year ago today, but failed on its second flight on July 2, 2017.

The failure set back a number of China’s space plans.  The Chang’e-5 robotic lunar sample return mission was the first to be impacted.  It had been scheduled for launch this fall.  China also plans to use Long March 5 for a robotic Mars orbiter/lander/rover mission in 2020, and to launch three 20 MT modules into LEO to form a 60 MT space station in the early 2020s.

The first step is returning the launch vehicle to flight status.  Jones reports that the return to flight mission could happen in May of 2018, followed by the Chang’e-5 launch about a year from now.

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