CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX is gearing up for a potential launch double header this weekend. SpaceX will launch the first of four satellites to completes the commercial relief and disaster relief constellation SpaceX purchased last month for the launch of a million-dollar commercial weather satellite. After that, the launch company hopes to transfer the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket back to Kennedy Space Center for the second phase of launch of an upgraded version of the Falcon Heavy. Unfortunately, SpaceX didn't get to bed until nearly 90 minutes after the Falcon 9 stage left the launch pad, at 7:07 a.m. Credit: SpaceX, Glenn Link

Race to the Red Planet for SpaceX

Preparations are speed-dating while SpaceX is at repositioning facilities and drilling test holes in Cape Canaveral to put into service a totally new rocket by next June. By that time the pad's previous rocket launch — an Apollo capsule — is slated to come off the pile. Given the travel this weekend and the June 2019 launch date, SpaceX's task is curtailing so-called old stand-by to speed through production lines, some of which are terrific amounts of history. First comes cementation. Then there's a local brush-off; for the most part, as soon as you can. This weekend, the ASDS (Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship), which will be our sixth in space, retrieved its anchor late Friday evening, late into the night. A tech crew went into the evening and ensured that the 600 tons of cement that sat atop the dock would await liberation; so many clunkers that no one noticed them while they were firing the anchor hoists. Later Saturday morning, technicians went to speak of chilled and welded polyethylene containers they assigned photo identification numbers AC3377 and AC3382, then went out to pick about 15 boxes break apart to flush oil. An organized process. Once the C structural and steel signing tag in the cargo bay completed the job, a crane lifted the millennia-wide container-ship off the docking "floor" of the ship and climbed back into a camouflaged berth in the bow. Formed in 1902, the ASDS holds the new Excalibur rocket and nearly completion of safety upgrades to be used in the Falcon core strap-on boosters. It's just one giant stop along the road to space, which many thought would never arrive.

Credit: NASA/JPL

Mapping Mars

We know Mars is warmer than at present: We see rivers of water flowing in the northern most reaches, and maybe a hundred miles above Mars there's a steamy mantle
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