The visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders (10-5) will face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (11-3) in the second CFL West final in a row between the longtime rivals.Accustomed to playing a much-anticipated Labour Day home-and-home set annually, the prairie towns are squaring off in the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
It’s the second of two rivalry games on CFL division final Sunday with the Toronto Argonauts hosting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a Battle-of-the-QEW East championship prior to the Winnipeg-Saskatchewan clash.
THE SCHEDULE: Sunday, 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT at IG Field.
THE LINE: The Blue Bombers opened as 6-point favourites at Oddsshark.com.
AT STAKE: The winner goes to Hamilton for the Grey Cup against the Tiger-Cats or Argonauts on Dec. 12.
THE SEASON SERIES: The Bombers were 2-0 against the Roughriders. Winnipeg won 23-8 in Regina on Sept. 5 and 33-9 at home six days later. The Roughriders didn’t score a touchdown in the two games and didn’t score a point in either second half.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: It’s a rematch of the last West final, won 20-13 by the Bombers in Regina in 2019. The Bombers went on to capture the Grey Cup. Winnipeg, which also beat Saskatchewan in the 2018 West semi, is making its fifth straight playoff appearance.
The Roughriders are coming off a dramatic 33-30 double overtime win over Calgary in last week’s West semi.
If the Saskatchewan Roughriders want to punch their ticket to the 108th Grey Cup in Hamilton on Dec. 12, they’re going to have to go through the best team in the CFL.
The 11-3 Winnipeg Blue Bombers will host the Roughriders Sunday afternoon with a trip to the league’s biggest stage on the line.
You don’t have to look too long in the rearview mirror to find the last time these two teams met in a game like this.
In 2019, the Blue Bombers defeated the Roughriders 20-13 in the Western Final en route to their 11th Grey Cup victory.
After the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts square off in the Eastern Final, catch the Riders battle the Blue Bombers LIVE Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET/1:00 p.m. PT on TSN1/3/4, TSN.ca, the TSN App and on TSN Direct.
Here is a look at everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s Western Final.
When quarterback Cody Fajardo rushed for a one-yard touchdown to give Saskatchewan a 27-24 lead over the Calgary Stampeders with under three minutes to play in the Western Semi-final last Sunday, it appeared as though the Roughriders were going to cruise into the Western Final.
But a Rene Paredes field goal only minutes later tied it for the Stamps, sending the game to overtime, where Riders kicker Brett Lauther played the hero.
Lauther opened the scoring in overtime with a 20-yard chip shot to give the Roughriders the lead, and later punched their ticket to the Western Final with his 34-yarder to give Saskatchewan the 33-30 win over the Stampeders.
The Roughriders managed the ups and downs of the pandemic-shortened 14-game CFL regular season and wound up finishing with a 9-5 record, good for second in the West Division behind the Blue Bombers.
Fajardo, after finishing runner-up in Most Outstanding Player voting to Hamilton’s Brandon Banks in 2019, once again was the leader this team needed in 2021.
The 29-year-old finished third in passing yards (2,970), second in passing TDs (14) and led all quarterbacks in rushing yards (468).
But he will be looking to bounce back this week after his four interceptions against Calgary in the semi-final.
Despite their strong regular season, the Roughriders will need to be a lot better on Sunday against the Blue Bombers than they were during the entire 2021 season.
Winnipeg won both games against Saskatchewan this season, outscoring them 56-17.
How the Blue Bombers got here
Any way you slice it, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were the best team in the CFL this season.
They opened the season 2-0 before falling 23-20 to the Toronto Argonauts in Week 3.
But since then, the Blue Bombers have been nearly unstoppable.
Winnipeg answered their first loss of the season by winning nine consecutive games, and clinched first place in the West Division in Week 12 – with a 45-0 shutout of the BC Lions.
Somehow, the team’s season is much better than their 11-3 record would indicate.
The Bombers enter the playoffs as losers of their last two games, but those games were rather meaningless to the team, given they had already secured the top seed, and a majority of the team’s backups got the lion’s share of playing time.
Winnipeg will host the Roughriders at IG Field Sunday and put their perfect 7-0 home record this season on the line.
The seven wins came in dominating fashion as they outscored their opponents by a total of 134 points in those games.
Winnipeg, on top of their 2-0 record against Saskatchewan this season, has gotten the better of the Roughriders in their last two playoff meetings dating back to 2018.
But the Bombers aren’t getting ahead of themselves and understand the challenge in front of them.
“It does feel like a long time ago,” Winnipeg quarterback Zach Collaros said about the two wins over Saskatchewan this season. “Watching those two games, they were a little different in both of them in how they approached us. Definitely different than how they’ve played the last five or six games.”
Collaros has had a full season with the team in 2021, unlike in 2019 when he joined the Bombers late in the season to help end the club’s 28-season championship drought.
“It’s better because you know the guys in the locker room, you have a better familiarity with the system and the terminology and all those things,” Collaros said.
Sunday’s winner will advance to the Grey Cup to meet the victor of the Eastern Final between the Tiger-Cats and Argonauts.
The James Webb Space Telescope slipped into orbit around a point in space nearly a million miles from Earth Monday where it can capture light from the first stars and galaxies to form in the aftermath of the Big Bang.
As planned, the European Ariane 5 rocket that launched Webb on Christmas Day put the telescope on a trajectory that required only a slight push to reach the intended orbit around Lagrange Point 2, one of five where the pull of sun and Earth interact to form stable or nearly stable gravitational zones.
The push came in the form of a 4-minute 57-second thruster firing at 2 p.m. EST — 30 days after launch at a distance of 907,530 miles from Earth — that increased Webb’s velocity by a mere 3.6 mph, just enough to ease it into a six-month orbit around L2.
“Webb, welcome home!” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a blog post. “Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb’s safe arrival at L2 today. We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer!”
Spacecraft at or near L2 orbit the sun in lockstep with Earth and can remain on station with a minimum amount of rocket fuel, allowing a longer operational lifetime than might otherwise be possible.
An orbit around L2 also will allow Webb to observe the universe while keeping its tennis court-size sunshade broadside to Earth’s star and the telescope’s optics and instruments on the cold side.
As of Monday, Webb’s mirror had cooled down to minus 347 Fahrenheit, well on the way toward a goal of nearly 390 degrees below zero. That’s what is required for Webb to register the exceedingly faint infrared light from the first stars and galaxies.
For the rest of its operational life, Webb will circle L2 at distances between 155,000 and 517,000 miles, taking six months to complete one orbit. Because the orbit around L2 is not perfectly stable, small thruster firings will be carried out every three weeks or so to maintain the telescope’s trajectory.
“Congrats to the team!” tweeted NASA science chief Thomas Zurbuchen. “@NASAWebb is now in its new stable home in space & one step closer to helping us #UnfoldTheUniverse.”
Before launch, engineers said Webb likely would have enough propellant to operate for five to 10 years. But thanks to the precision of its Ariane 5 launch and two near-perfect trajectory correction burns carried out later, it now appears Webb could remain operational for many years beyond that.
In any case, with the L2 orbit insertion burn behind then, scientists and engineers will focus on aligning Webb’s secondary mirror and the 18 hexagonal segments making up its 21.3-foot-wide primary mirror to achieve the required razor-sharp focus.
Each mirror segment is equipped with seven actuators, six of which can make microscopic changes in a segment’s orientation and one that can push or pull as required to slightly change a mirror’s shape.
As it now stands, the 18 unaligned segments would produce 18 out-of-focus images of the same star. But over the next few months, the positions of each segment will be adjusted in tiny increments, one at a time, to move reflected starlight to the center of the telescope’s optical axis.
Once all 18 light beams are precisely merged, or “stacked,” Webb will effectively be in focus, clearing the way for instrument calibration. The first science images from the fully commissioned telescope are expected this summer.
SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft, closing out a month-long mission, is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station Sunday after a two-delay in its departure to wait for better weather in the capsule’s recovery zone off the coast of Florida.
The gumdrop-shaped cargo freighter will undock from the station’s Harmony module at 10:40 a.m. EDT (1540 GMT) Sunday. A series of departure maneuvers using the ship’s Draco thrusters will guide Dragon away from the complex, setting up for a deorbit burn at 3:18 p.m. EDT (2018 GMT) Monday to allow the spacecraft to drop out of orbit and re-enter the atmosphere.
Splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, is scheduled for around 4:05 p.m. EDT (2105 GMT) Monday. Four main parachutes will slow the capsule before reaching the ocean, where a SpaceX recovery vessel will be in position to raise the Dragon spacecraft from the sea.
Time-sensitive cargo, such as biological research samples, will be flown back to Kennedy Space Center by helicopter, where NASA researchers will receive and catalog the materials for analysis and distribution to scientists around the world.
The undocking and splashdown will complete SpaceX’s 24th resupply mission to the space station since 2012 under the umbrella of two multibillion-dollar commercial contracts with NASA.
The Dragon spacecraft is packed with more than 4,900 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of cargo, including a spacesuit coming back to Earth for refurbishment after supporting spacewalks outside the space station.
The mission launched Dec. 21 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The Dragon cargo freighter docked with the space station Dec. 22, and astronauts began unpacking science experiments, holiday gifts and food, spare parts and other supplies.
The cargo delivery last month hauled 6,590 pounds (2,989 kilograms) of supplies and experiments, including packaging, to the space station’s seven-person crew.
The Dragon cargo ship delivered four experimental CubeSats to the station from teams at Kennedy Space Center, Aerospace Corp., Utah State University, and Georgia Tech. The CubeSats will be robotically deployed outside the complex later this year.
The scientific experiments launched on the SpaceX cargo freighter included an investigation from Merck Research Labs studying monoclonal antibodies. The research focus of that experiment is on analyzing the structure and behavior of a monoclonal antibody used in a drug aimed at treating cancers.
Another experiment is assessing the loss of immune protection in astronauts flying in space.
Proctor & Gamble and NASA have partnered in another experiment to test the performance of a new fully degradable detergent named Tide Infinity, a product specifically designed for use in space.
Astronauts on the space station currently wear an item of clothing several times, then discard the garment. But crews flying to the moon and Mars won’t have the same supply chain of cargo missions to support them.
NASA says Tide plans to use the new cleaning detergent to “advance sustainable, low-resource-use laundry solutions on Earth.”
Another research investigation will test manufacturing methods for superalloys in space. Alloys, materials made up of a metal and at least one other chemical element, could be produced in microgravity with fewer defects and better mechanical properties, according to NASA.
“These superior materials could improve the performance of turbine engines in industries such as aerospace and power generation on Earth,” NASA said.
With its 32-day stay at the station over, the astronauts on the research outpost replaced the cargo delivered by Dragon with materials tagged for return to Earth.
Astra, a company seeking to carve out a segment of the growing small satellite launch market, test-fired its two-stage rocket at Cape Canaveral on Saturday in preparation for an upcoming demonstration flight for NASA.
The engine test-firing, called a static fire test, occurred on launch pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station as Astra prepares to deliver four small CubeSat nano-satellites into orbit under contract to NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services program.
The rocket’s five Delphin engines, burning kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants, fired for less than 10 seconds at 11:40 a.m. EST (1640 GMT) Saturday on pad 46.
The static fire test sent an exhaust plume away from the rocket that was visible from public viewing locations several miles away. A low rumble was also heard from the beaches south of Cape Canaveral.
Astra confirmed the static fire test in a tweet Sunday afternoon. Chris Kemp, Astra’s founder and CEO, tweeted that the company will announce the target launch date and time for the mission after receiving a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The static fire test was expected to be a prerequisite for Astra receiving an FAA launch license.
Astra’s rocket is small in size compared to other launch vehicles that regularly fly from Cape Canaveral. The launcher, called Rocket 3.3 or LV0008, stands just 43 feet (13.1 meters) tall, more than five times shorter than SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, and about the same height as the Falcon 9’s payload compartment.
The commercially-developed launch vehicle, in its existing configuration, is designed to carry a payload of around 110 pounds (50 kilograms) into a 310-mile-high (500-kilometer) polar orbit, according to Kemp. Astra’s rocket is sized to offer dedicated rides to orbit for small commercial, military, and research satellites.
Astra launched its first successful mission to low Earth orbit in November from Kodiak Island, Alaska, on a test flight sponsored by the U.S. Space Force, following three previous launch attempts that faltered during the climb into orbit.
Founded in 2016, Astra aims to eventually conduct daily launches with small satellites at relatively low cost, targeting a smallsat launch market cramped with competitors such as Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, and Firefly Aerospace, each of which has begun flying small launch vehicles. Numerous other companies are months or years away from debuting their smallsat launchers.
Four CubeSats are set to ride the rocket into orbit on a mission arranged by NASA.
The mission is part of NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services, or VCLS, program, which awarded Astra a $3.9 million contract last year for a commercial CubeSat launch. Scott Higginbotham, head of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative at Kennedy Space Center, says the agency is the sole customer for the upcoming Astra launch.
The Venture Class Launch Services program is aimed at giving emerging small satellite launch companies some business, while helping NASA officials familiarize themselves with the nascent industry.
NASA previously awarded VCLS demonstration missions to Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit, which completed their first launches for the U.S. space agency in 2018 and 2021. The U.S. military has awarded similar demonstration launch contracts to Astra and other companies.
Higginbotham said the VCLS mission gives NASA insight into companies’ management and technical teams, procedures and processes, and their hardware designs.
“That’s going to allow us to be a better consumer going forward if they stay in business, and can offer their services to us later on,” Higginbotham said. “We’ll already have been introduced and have done a deep dive, of sorts, into those companies to understand what makes them tick, and that’s that’s of tremendous value to us.”
The VCLS demo missions are also a stepping stone toward certification of the new smallsat launchers to carry more expensive NASA satellites into orbit. The certification isn’t required for the demo missions themselves.
“NASA has other missions that require a little bit more reliability from the launch vehicle, a little more certainty, and a little more launch vehicle insight,” Higginbotham said.
A team of fewer than a dozen technicians and engineers set up Astra’s rocket on pad 46 earlier this month. Astra’s launch control team remained behind at the company’s headquarters in Alameda, California, where managers remotely control the rocket’s countdown.
A fueling test, or wet dress rehearsal, was accomplished earlier in January before Saturday’s static fire.
NASA assigned four nano-missions to the Astra demonstration launch through the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative program.
One of the CubeSats was developed by the University of California, Berkeley. Named QubeSat, the small spacecraft will test a tiny gyroscope, a device used to help determine the orientation of satellites in space.
Another student-developed payload on Astra’s first launch from Florida is the Ionospheric Neutron Content Analyzer, or INCA mission, from New Mexico State University. INCA’s main science instrument is a directional neutron spectrometer from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Data from INCA will “contribute to understanding the radiation environment that satellites encounter, and to the understanding of neutron air showers, which pose a radiation hazard to occupants of high-altitude aircraft such as airliners,” according to the student team that developed the mission.
The BAMA 1 mission, developed at the University of Alabama, will demonstrate a drag sail device designed to help old satellites and space junk drop out of orbit. The drag sail will encounter air molecules from the rarefied atmosphere at the satellite’s altitude, slowing its velocity enough to fall back to Earth.
The final payload is a CubeSat named R5-S1 from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA says the mission’s objectives including demonstrating quick CubeSat development and testing technologies useful for in-space inspection, which could make human spaceflight safer and more efficient.
Another CubeSat mission from UC-Berkeley originally selected by NASA for the Astra demonstration launch wasn’t ready in time for integration with the rocket in December, according to Jasmine Hopkins, a NASA spokesperson at Kennedy Space Center.
The CubeSat Radio Interferometry Experiment, or CURIE, mission, consists of two identical three-unit CubeSats, each the size of a shoebox, with radio antennas to detect emissions from solar activity, such as solar flares and coronal mass eruptions.
NASA will assign the CURIE satellites to another launch, Hopkins said.