This Month in Space: September

September’s over, which means the smell of fresh school supplies is quickly fading and it’s time to start ushering in the crisp smell of cold air and crunchy leaves on the ground.

Just kidding this is the Space Coast, we’ll probably still be smelling sunscreen in the air well into November.

The month of September was packed with space news, let’s look back at just a few of this past month’s most exciting highlights.


UCF Planetary Scientist Claims Pluto is a Planet After All

We all remember the fateful day when the news broke about Pluto getting the interplanetary boot. Textbooks were rewritten, tears were shed, and relationships between scientists were tarnished.

12 years after the announcement, some are still fighting for Pluto to get the recognition it deserves. Philip Metzger, a planetary scientist from the University of Central Florida, argues that the reasons why Pluto lost its planetary status in 2006 are not valid.

“It’s the most geologically active planet besides the Earth,” Metzger said. “There are flowing glaciers, moving mountains. It is possible, at least possible, that Pluto might have life.”

He argues that the characteristics that Pluto has that resulted in the stripping of its title are found throughout many other bodies in space that are currently classified as planets. Since Metzger’s publishings, the International Astronomical Union has publicly stated that they would be open to revisit the conversation.


ULA Lands Viasat Launch Contract

On Sept. 10, global communications company, Viasat Inc., announced that it would be selecting United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket to launch one of its ViaSat-3 satellite missions. This is ULA’s first commercial contract since taking over the sales of the Atlas V launch vehicle from Lockheed Martin.

The mission will carry a ViaSat-3 series spacecraft into orbit in order to deliver more than 1-Terabit per second of network capacity dynamically directed where customers are located.

It’s scheduled to launch sometime between 2020 and 2022 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.


SpaceX Launches

One of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets successfully launched the Telstar 18 Vantage communications satellite into orbit  in the early hours of Sept. 10 from Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral.

The Telstar 18V will provide constant broadband communications services to China, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. It will be replacing the capabilities of the previous Telesat Telstar 18 satellite.

The rocket safely landed back on SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.


NASA Gears Up to Celebrate 60th Anniversary

October 1 marks 60 years since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration opened their doors to an age of space exploration and remarkable discoveries. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite to go into orbit around the Earth.

This was the start of the infamous space race that led to Alan Shepard’s suborbital spaceflight, John Glenn’s space orbit, and Neil Armstrong’s iconic lunar landing in the span of just a decade after NASA got its start.


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