At 2018 UT on 26 March 2020, Atlas 5 departed Cape Canaveral, carrying AEHF-6, the final addition to the AEHF satcom project, augmenting previous military communications satellites supporting the United States and allies.
The launch was halted at T minus 46 seconds prior to a planned 1857 UT launch. After resolving a ground hydraulic issue, the launch time was reset to 2018 UT.
AEHF-6 is similar to the other five AEHF satellites, based on the A2100M satellite bus built by Lockheed Martin. The satellite will operate in the Clarke Belt for about 14 years.
The launch also included an Air Force Research Laboratory sponsored 12U cubesat. TDO 2 was built by Georgia Tech and will flight test optical technologies; it was released from Centaur into a 26.7 deg x 198 km x 35460 km low-perigee GTO.
After a coast phase and final burn, ULA confirmed separation of the primary payload shortly before 0159 UT 27 Mar 2020.
In many languages, the event was a cozy 40-minute chat between a few featured speakers; a brief technical glitch during the French session notwithstanding, the conversations were both diverting and inspiring. Apart from the inspiration of working in and around space, each of the astronauts shared their unique expertise on staying active and productive despite isolation and cramped living quarters. Scientists and moderators provided additional commentary.
The English-language segment, on the other hand, was a free-wheeling 90-minute affair with not just space experts, but also singers and actors, each with a unique perspective on the shared challenge humanity is meeting together, with the help of science, technology, and the artists inspired by them.
Even as recent developments have caused NASA and ESA to shutter a number of activities for developmental rockets and space probes, work that supports the crewed International Space Station remains essential, and those operations remain a continued priority.
The launches are marking a period of renewal in crewed spaceflight. While the landmark flight of Crew Dragon has been hotly anticipated, Kounotori 9 is also a significant moment, the planned last flight of the original HII Transfer Vehicle (HTV), as JAXA moves to an updated HTV-X capsule and H3 rocket, both larger and capable of supporting both the ISS and the proposed Lunar Gateway space station.
The recent SpaceX CRS-20 was likewise the last flight of the original Dragon cargo capsule, as future missions will use the updated Cargo Dragon design, which is roughly similar to the new Crew Dragon, just with much less seating, life support, and thruster capacity.
Most airports in South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming that rely on the Salt Lake City hub still have a flight to another Delta hub. Casper and Cody don’t, but are also served by United out of Denver. Butte’s only scheduled passenger flights are to Salt Lake City.
Setting aside the sudden shocks to travel patterns as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, air travel now has a new constraint – the safety officers aviation relies on are now actually catching the virus.
CBS Chicago reported that the airport tower at Chicago-Midway was closed at 2000 UT 17 March 2020, with essential functions being transferred to Chicago TRACON. Flights will be able to continue.
Midway is the largest of three Midwest hubs used by Southwest Airlines. The airline has been cutting flights as demand has sagged in recent days.
The rover is expected to launch in Q2 of 2020 and arrive on Mars in Q1 of 2021. It will explore crater Jezero on the edge of the Isidis Planitia on Mars. The rover is derived from the same robotics platform used for Curiosity, and among other tasks, will set aside collected samples of soil and rock in sealed containers designed to be recovered and returned to Earth by a later Mars mission.