Coast-to-coast space operations driven primarily by SpaceX and United Launch Alliance promise to make next week an especially active one for space fans.
Early next week, SpaceX is expected to test fire a Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center's pad 39A ahead of a planned Friday afternoon launch with Bangladesh's first geostationary satellite, labeled Bangabandhu-1. The booster will be the first "Block V" version, which features enhanced performance and reusability.
SpaceX plans to recover the first stage on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship shortly after liftoff, which should return to Port Canaveral several days later.
Following SpaceX's Eastern Range launch, the Western Range at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on Saturday will host the high-profile launch of NASA's newest Mars lander, named InSight, which will take flight on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Liftoff is targeted for a two-hour window that opens at 4:05 a.m. Pacific time. InSight will mark the first time Vandenberg hosts an interplanetary launch.
The robotic lander, which will expand to 19 feet in width with its solar arrays deployed, will study the interior of Mars by measuring its seismology and temperature, to name a few. It will be the first probe on the red planet to detect and measure "marsquakes," too.
NASA hopes InSight will help scientists "understand the formation and early evolution of all rocky planets, including Earth."