What an exciting time to be alive. After years in the doldrums our space program is coming alive as we prepare to head back to the moon and beyond. 1) On August 22nd NASA will be launching a Delta IV (ULA) rocket from the cape to drop off a GPS sat in GEO orbit. The Delta IV rocket is one of the two heavy lift rockets currently available. Being heavy lift it should provide quite a spectacular launch. But what is more exciting is a planned crew mission coming up later this year (or early next year). This will mark the first time astronauts have been launched from American soil. Currently the only ride to to the space station has been a Russian Soyuz rocket. 2) Crew Dragon 2: (Nov 2019 but likely later). This will be the first crewed mission. Dragon 1 was an uncrewed supply mission that successfully docked with the ISS in July. Destination: LEO (ISS) Rocket: Falcon 9 (SpaceX) Crew Module: Dragon (SpaceX) 3) Boeing Orbital Test Flight (Early 2020). Boeing is the other game in town when it comes to sending astronauts to the ISS. This will be uncrewed but I expect they will have a crewed mission by the end of the year. Destination: LEO (ISS) Rocket: Atlas V (ULA) Crew Module:Starliner (Boeing) Some things to unpack here. The Delta IV (ULA) and Atlas V (ULA) are currently the only Heavy LIft rockets in operation. NASA is developing the SLS based on the shuttle launch rockets. And SpaceX plans to strap 3 Falcon 9 rockets together for the Falcon Heavy. New Glen (Blue Origin) - a Jeff Bezos joint - has also quietly been in testing. And ULA Iis working on the Vulcan rockets. So while SpaceX gets all the publicity there are quite a few other players. SpaceX and Boeing tested self propulsive landing versions of the Dragon and Starliner respectively. Very, very cool. However, for reasons, they went with the tried and true method of landing the capsules via parachute. The Dragon will actually land on sea and the Starliner will land at land. Both are to be reuasable however the Starliner will require less refurbishing due to not having to deal with the corrosive nature of salt water. Elon Musk (SpaceX) has changed his focus somewhat. Elon has realized that he needs to get a piece of the NASA pie and has changed the mission of the BFR (now called Starship) so that it can land on the moon. But if you haven't seen the Starship and how it lands the crew capsule it is pretty cool, First the rocket is all shiny steel and has three landing legs. It literally and on purpose looks like something from the 50's. The Starliner will sit atop a new rocket simply called the Super Heavy. The Starliner will re-enter in a way similar to the shuttle. One side will be turned towards the atmosphere and the heat shield on that side will bleed cooling liquid similar to how deicing works on the leading edge of an aircraft wing. After the spacecraft has bled off all the energy of rentry it will flip vertical and land self propulsively.