The SpaceX launch of the crewed Dragon module atop a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 27, was scrubbed 17 minutes before ignition/light off because of severe weather in the area. The next window for the historic mission will be Saturday, May 30, at 3:22 pm EDT. Another window takes place the next day, May 31, if needed.
While the mission has been 9 years in the making, a delay of even a couple of days heightens the level of anticipation—as Flying contributor Les Abend found as he waited during the last 59 minutes of the run-up to the launch, in the midst of celebrating another special occasion:
“Pleased that Elon Musk had made the decision to celebrate my birthday by launching astronauts to the International Space Station, my wife and I had driven to Cape Canaveral, bike rack and bicycles attached. After examining satellite photos like a CIA analyst, I had devised a strategy that involved positioning ourselves on a shoreline area with an unobstructed view of the event.
“The bicycles would allow us the mobility to park almost anywhere. Of course, no one but me had considered that plan. Within a minute of our arrival, a very polite law enforcement officer with a bona fide sense of humor informed me that he was the “fun police,” and that my strategy was not allowed. We accepted his advice that it was best to consider a libation while viewing the launch via the restaurant decks that lined the south shoreline of Port Canaveral.
“When I had awoke that morning to the sound of a Level 4 thunderstorm, I analyzed the Florida radar picture that was pixelating across my phone’s screen. My airline pilot brain told me that a launch had a marginal chance of happening. So, at T minus 59 minutes, I was surprised that the countdown was continuing. I found myself juggling between my radar app and the live NASA feed. Surely, someone at Mission Control would call me for advice. Infatuated with NASA of the 1960s—and geeked out on its trivia—I recalled the lightning strikes that had disabled Apollo 12’s navigation platform during its launch. That crisis was averted by some quick-thinking engineers, but it left enough of an impression where the current policy was established that if convective activity is within 50 miles, the launch does not occur.
“Though communication between Mission Control and the Dragon capsule held the standard monotone, airline-like demeanor, no doubt the astronauts were feeling the stress of the moment, probably wondering if mother nature was going to foil the day’s plans. At T-minus 30 minutes, my radar analysis indicated that the last band of weather needed to vacate the area more quickly to the east. If the band moved away, the next batch of convection to the southwest might just remain 50 miles away. I was amazed that propellant was still being added to the rocket.
“With approximately 17 minutes remaining, a dry humor comment from mission control that another 10 minutes was needed indicated to me that the launch was scrubbed. When the abort sequence was announced, it was time to beat the crowd. Despite the numerous TVs in the restaurant that were broadcasting NASA Live, it seemed that the other patrons hadn’t quite got the abort message. Surely, we would be the first to exit the parking lot. Once again, my strategy wasn’t an original thought.
“Though enduring the traffic was painful, I could have only imagined the frustration of NASA, SpaceX, and the astronauts. That being said, the appropriate decision was made to abort the launch. After being presented with a career of similar decisions, I had a tremendous appreciation for the protocol that was followed precisely. Thanks anyhow, Elon! Maybe next year’s birthday?”
Sun ‘n Fun’s Home Edition Online Airshow live event on May 30 will benefit the Aerospace Center for Excellence, to try and make up for funding lost with the cancellation of the Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo in Lakeland, Florida, earlier this month.
The nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization has lost an estimated 80 percent of its funding, which puts many of the scholarships and STEM programs delivered by the center—plus expansion of the center itself—on hold for the foreseeable future.
The Online Airshow benefit promises to be packed with a lot of the airshow entertainment that folks have come to expect from the Aerospace Expo it replaces this year—including live interviews with aviation personalities and pilots, and live commentary on show performances by the US Air Force Thunderbirds, US Navy Blue angels, F35 Demo Team, and performers such as Patty Wagstaff and Michael Goulian. The live stream starts at 1 pm EDT on Saturday—or you can catch the archived footage from this and other Sun n Fun Home Edition sessions on Flying’s Virtual Air Show
During the event, participants can join into the silent auction in order to be eligible for prizes that will be distributed. These include trips and tickets to #SNF21, gear donated by Bose, and other pilot-focused giveaways. Registration is free—you don’t have to bid on anything to win.
To help aviation start-up ventures gain financial footing post-pandemic as they develop new commercial applications that rely on ADS-B data, a partnership has been announced by AirNav Systems and BrightCap Ventures to offer funding to selected start-ups. The goal is to address the various challenges in the field of flight safety, ground and flight operations enhancements, aircraft health monitoring, aircraft operating conditions, UAV operations, and anti-UAV systems as the industry moves on from the COVID-19 crisis.
AirNav Systems is a global flight tracking and monitoring company based in Tampa, Florida, with a research and development center in Europe that provides related data to aviation service providers worldwide. BrightCap Ventures is an early-stage, tech-focused VC fund registered in the Netherlands with its main office in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Called the “Kitty Hawk Challenge,” the partnership aims to identify start-ups worldwide via a rigorous selection process that includes an in-depth review of each potential company to launch a new funding program for start-up ventures anxious to leverage ADS-B data and technology solutions.
Selected startups will receive up to €200,000 (approximately $218,000) equity funding from BrightCap Ventures. In addition to the capital and mentoring/oversight of BrightCap, these startups will also be given the opportunity to collaborate with AirNav Systems LLC to utilize the company’s available historical and real-time tracking data to best develop the technology solutions that exhibit both engineering maturity and go-to-market capabilities. Upon further progress with product commercialization, BrightCap Ventures can invest up to €3,500,000 (approximately $3,815,000) in selected startups as part of further Seed/Series A rounds.
“The aviation industry is being faced with challenges we have never seen before,” said Oleg Rakhimov, vice president business development and sales, AirNav Systems LLC. “It became obvious that conventional methods and approaches would not be enough to deliver the fastest recovery path. Broadly accepted paradigms mostly failed. The industry is looking for new solutions with non-standard algorithms embedded. AirNav Systems wanted to step in and help encourage aviation enthusiasts and professionals to share alternative views encapsulated in not-from-the-shelf software. The Kitty Hawk Challenge will stimulate new ideas that can be turned into robust anti-crisis tools to bring the aviation industry back to its highs. The AirNav Systems and BrightCap partnership are eager to use this momentum to add fuel to the startups and help them fly to save aviation.”
“Access to domain-specific, production-quality data has always been a challenge for startups,” said Georgi Mitov, Managing Partner, BrightCap Ventures. "The customers provide such data, but many of the early-stage startups don't have customers yet and can't use such data to develop and test their product, so this becomes a ‘catch-22’ situation. Our partnership with AirNav will allow selected startups to leverage our entrepreneurial and domain-specific experience, combined with access to production quality ADS-B data, to develop next-gen solutions for the aviation industry. This setup makes us very enthusiastic about the Kitty Hawk Challenge and our partnership with AirNav.”
BrightCap Ventures’ Mitov explained, “Many successful companies are born during turbulent times. The new economic outlook will encourage companies to look for smart and cost-efficient ways to run their operation. Our partnership with AirNav will allow startups to benefit from our entrepreneurial experience and leverage the benefits which Bulgaria has to offer as an R & D destination, helping startups develop world-class products with excellent talent at a competitive cost,” he said.