NASA delays commercial crew mission to study Falcon 9 engine issue

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WASHINGTON — NASA is delaying the launch of the first operational SpaceX commercial crew mission to the first half of November to provide more time to review a problem during a recent Falcon 9 launch attempt.

NASA announced Oct. 10 the Crew-1 mission, which was scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 in the early morning hours of Oct. 31 from the Kennedy Space Center, will now launch no earlier than early to mid-November.

The delay, the agency said, will provide more time for SpaceX “to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt.” NASA did not identify the specific launch attempt in question, but an Oct. 2 launch of a Falcon 9 carrying a GPS 3 satellite was scrubbed just two seconds before liftoff because of SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk later described as an “unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator.”

“With the high cadence of missions SpaceX performs, it really gives us incredible insight into this commercial system and helps us make informed decisions about the status of our missions,” Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in the agency statement. She said an investigation into the problem is ongoing “and we should be a lot smarter within the coming week.”

Both the Crew-1 and the GPS 3 missions are using new Falcon 9 first stages that have not previously launched. After the GPS 3 scrub, SpaceX successfully launched another Falcon 9 Oct. 6 carrying 60 Starlink satellites using a booster making its third flight. SpaceX has yet to reschedule the GPS 3 launch.

NASA said the issue with the Crew-1 mission will not delay another Falcon 9 launch, of the Sentinel-6


Case Western Reserve University delays 2020 Inamori Ethics Prize events, launches conversation series

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Case Western Reserve University says it will postpone its 2020 Inamori Ethics Prize events until 2021. To fill the void, the university has launched a virtual conversation series with prize winners.


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The series, titled “Conversations on Justice,” will kick off with an event from 12:45 to 2:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23. The event will feature 2020 prize recipient Judge Silvia Alejandra Fernández de Gurmendi, along with previous winners LeVar Burton, Marian Wright Edelman and Farouk El-Baz in a conversation on the topic of civil rights.

The conversation can be viewed on Case Western Reserve University’s livestream page,

Future conversations will focus on topics like climate justice and healthcare justice.

“Our traditional prize presentation and events had to be postponed due to the pandemic, but the change in plans also has a specific purpose: to get people talking about how ethical leaders working in different areas — from the law to science to the arts, and everywhere else — can make a positive difference,” said Shannon E. French, Inamori Professor in Ethics and director of the Inamori Center, in a press release. “Who better to explore that potential than the winners of a prestigious international award for ethical leadership, the Inamori Ethics Prize?”

According to the press release, the “Conversations on Justice” series will lead up to the Inamori Ethics Prize event, which will honor Fernández, in the fall of 2021. Fernández will participate in future components of the virtual conversation series, too.

“These events will be an incredible opportunity for us to hear outstanding global ethics leaders from diverse fields talking with one another about their own views on justice and how to build a more equitable society,” French said in a press release. “To get these amazing individuals together, even virtually, is


COVID-19 delays create challenges for college football teams

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The last time North Carolina went this long between games during a football season was in 1952, when a polio outbreak on campus forced the Tar Heels to cancel two games.

For No. 25 Memphis, 28 days will separate its season-opener from Saturday’s game at SMU because of a COVID-19 outbreak that shut down its football facility.

One way or another, the coronavirus has caused the postponement or cancellation of 24 games involving major college football teams since Aug. 26. The latest came Thursday, when Appalachian State postponed next week’s game against against Sun Belt rival Louisiana-Lafayette. The Mountaineers’ next game is scheduled for Oct. 14, while the Ragin’ Cajuns are idle until Oct. 17.

The delays and disruptions have created long layoffs, unusual practice schedules and short-handed rosters, leaving coaches wracking their brains for ways to keep players engaged mentally and physically.

“Does it still hold true that you improve the most between your first and second game if there’s two weeks between them, really three weeks between them?” North Carolina coach Mack Brown asked. “I think probably not. We’re starting over.”

No. 12 North Carolina got its opener in on Sept. 12, beating Syracuse. The next week a nonconference game against Charlotte was postponed a couple of days before it was supposed to be played because the 49ers could not play.

North Carolina had an open date the following week, but couldn’t find a game. The Tar Heels will play at Boston College on Saturday, three weeks after the opener without having had an outbreak of their own.

North Carolina could conduct practices as usual, but Brown dialed it back. The staff suggested holding a scrimmage on what would have been game day, but Brown wasn’t keen on that.

“I was concerned that if we had a scrimmage


After lengthy delays, ULA’s most powerful rocket poised to launch classified spy satellite

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After many weeks of delays due to faulty equipment and bad weather, the United Launch Alliance is set to launch its most powerful rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, lofting a classified spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. The mission is finally ready to fly a full month after the rocket’s first launch attempt, which was aborted just three seconds before liftoff.

The rocket going up on ULA’s mission is the Delta IV Heavy, a giant vehicle that consists of three rocket cores strapped together to provide extra thrust. It’s one of the most powerful rockets in the world, though it falls short of the power packed into SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. ULA doesn’t fly the Delta IV Heavy very often, as it’s an expensive vehicle to make, but the company uses the rocket for large, heavy satellites headed to super-high orbits.

The rocket’s payload is NROL-44, and like all NRO missions, its purpose is cloaked in secrecy. The office simply notes that “NROL-44 supports NRO’s overall national security mission to provide intelligence data to the United States’ senior policymakers, the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense.” ULA has already launched 29 missions for the NRO, many of which have required the Delta IV Heavy.

ULA was all set to launch NROL-44 in the wee hours of the morning on August 29th. ULA counted all the way down to just seconds before liftoff, with the Delta IV Heavy’s main engines briefly igniting. But the engines quickly shut off and the rocket remained fixed on the launchpad. ULA later learned a piece of ground equipment had failed, prompting the abort. It took the company a few weeks to replace the faulty equipment.

Further problems with equipment on the launchpad pushed back the launch time again, but ULA is hoping to get off


SpaceX delays next Starlink satellite fleet launch due to bad weather

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SpaceX postponed the launch of a new fleet of Starlink internet satellites today (Sept. 28) due to bad weather at the mission’s Florida launch site. 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled to launch 60 Starlink satellites from Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:22 a.m. EDT (1422 GMT), but thick clouds over the launch site prevented the flight. 

“Unfortunately, it looks like due to weather violations, we’re going to to have to scrub today,” Alex Seigel, a senior material planner with SpaceX, said in live commentary. “But again, the most important thing is reducing as much risk on the mission as possible, and with that comes waiting for a window of good weather.”

Related: SpaceX’s Starlink satellite megaconstellation launches in photos 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink internet satellites stands atop Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida during a Sept. 28, 2020 launch attempt.  (Image credit: SpaceX)

The launch delay sets up a traffic jam of sorts in Cape Canaveral, where two more rockets are scheduled to lift off on Tuesday (Sept. 29). 

Up first is a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket, which is set to launch the classified NROL-44 satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office at 12:02 a.m. EDT (0402 GMT) on Tuesday. That mission will lift off from Space Launch Complex 37 at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 

SpaceX is next with the launch of a GPS III navigation satellite for the U.S. military. That mission will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 9:55 p.m. EDT (0155 Sept. 30 GMT). 

You can watch those launch live here and on the homepage, courtesy of ULA and SpaceX.

SpaceX’s Starlink mission will likely have