SpaceX’s Upcoming Milestone: Lunar Lander on Falcon 9’s 300th Mission; JAXA’s Ambitious Orbit Goal with H3 Rocket

This week is a busy one for space missions, with multiple launches scheduled from various countries. SpaceX, in particular, is preparing for four separate Falcon 9 missions, while JAXA and Roscosmos also have significant launches on the horizon.

One of SpaceX’s missions is set to launch NASA’s PACE Earth-observation satellite, which aims to provide constant models of global ocean color, cloud, and aerosol data. PACE will help scientists and researchers better understand changes and inconsistencies in the Earth’s environment, enabling them to predict phenomena such as weather conditions, visibility, and air quality. The Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and the booster will return to Landing Zone 1 shortly after launch.

Another mission by SpaceX involves launching multiple Starlink satellites into orbit. The first batch of Starlink satellites was originally scheduled to launch earlier this week but was postponed due to bad weather. The satellites are part of SpaceX’s plan to provide internet access to people all over the world. The specific booster for this mission is yet to be determined, but it will likely land on one of the autonomous droneships stationed on the East Coast.

In addition to these missions, SpaceX is also launching the IM-1 Nova-C lunar lander on Falcon 9’s 300th flight. The lunar lander, developed by Intuitive Machines, is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. It will carry several payloads, including NASA’s instruments and private or university payloads, to study various aspects of the lunar surface.

Moving on to JAXA, the Japanese space agency is readying for the second flight of the H3 rocket. The first launch of the H3 rocket in 2023 was unsuccessful, but JAXA is confident that the upcoming launch will be a success. Three payloads, including the Vehicle Evaluation Payload-4 (VEP-4) mass simulator and two small satellites, will be launched into a Sun-synchronous orbit.

Meanwhile, Roscosmos is set to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) with the Progress MS-26 mission. The Soyuz 2.1a rocket will carry essential supplies such as food, water, oxygen, and fuel to support the astronauts on board the ISS. This will be the first Soyuz 2.1a mission of 2024 and the 179th Progress mission since its inception.

Overall, this week’s launches highlight the continuous efforts by various space agencies and private companies to explore and understand different aspects of space and Earth. Whether it is studying the Earth’s environment, deploying satellites for global internet coverage, or planning lunar missions, these missions are paving the way for further advancements in space exploration and scientific research.

(Cover image: Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 Nova-C lander before encapsulation in Falcon 9’s payload fairing. Credit: SpaceX)