Category Archives: Rockets

Space transport roundup – Dec.11.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport (find previous roundups here):

[ Update: Statement from Blue about today’s New Shepard flight: Blue Origin | New Shepard Mission NS-12 Updates

New Shepard had a wholly successful mission on December 11, 2019. 

This mission was another step towards verifying New Shepard for human spaceflight as we continue to mature the safety and reliability of the vehicle. 

This was the 6th flight for this particular New Shepard vehicle. Blue Origin has so far reused two boosters five times each consecutively, so today marks a record with this booster completing its 6th flight to space and back.

This particular rocket has been an operational payload vehicle for several flights, meaning there are no more updates to the system.

Here are some videos Blue posted this afternoon:


** Blue Origin flew a New Shepard rocket vehicle today on its 6th mission to over 100 kilometers. The launch was postponed from Tuesday due to bad weather. Here is the webcast video (the liftoff is around the 40:15 point):

An earlier statement from Blue announcing the mission:

Blue Origin’s next New Shepard mission (NS-12) is currently targeting liftoff tomorrow, December 10th at 8:30 am CST / 14:30 UCT. Current weather conditions aren’t as favorable as we’d like, but we’re continuing to keep an eye on the forecast.

As we move towards verifying New Shepard for human spaceflight we are continuing to mature the safety and reliability of the vehicle. 

It’s the 6th flight for this particular New Shepard vehicle, marking the first time a Blue Origin booster has made this many consecutive flights (the previous booster flew five times consecutively) – all with minimal refurbishment between flights. This particular rocket has been an operational payload vehicle for several flights, meaning there are no more updates to the system.

This will also be the 9th commercial payload mission for New Shepard, and we are proud to be flying our 100th customer on board. 

Also on the vehicle are thousands of postcards from students around the world for our nonprofit Club for the Future. The Club’s mission is to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help visualize the future of life in space.

You can watch the launch live at – the pre-show begins T-30 where Blue will provide more mission details and updates.

To follow the action, we’ll be posting live updates on Instagram and Twitter.

Blue Origin Twitter and Instagram 
Club for Future Twitter and Instagram

New Shepard Mission NS-12 Notable Payloads Manifested:

Earlier this year we partnered with rock band OK Go on a contest called Art in Space, giving high school and middle school students a chance to send art experiments into space on our New Shepard vehicle. We are sending the two winning art projects on NS-12.

Columbia University
One of our educational payloads from Columbia University, designed and built by undergraduate students and advised by Dr. Michael Massimino (an astronaut), will study the acute impacts of microgravity environments on cell biology. This is crucial for humans living and working in space.

OSCAR, which was led by principal investigator Dr. Annie Meier, is a recycling technology payload from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It is designed to create a mixture of gasses that could be used for propulsion or life support from common waste on a deep space human exploration mission. This is Blue’s first full-stack payload, meaning there will be more room to do complex studies in flight.

-Gradatim Ferociter

See also: Blue Origin moving to verify New Shepard for human flight with 12th test launch –

** Several orbital launches took place in the past week.

*** Dec.11: India launched a PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) today with a radar imaging spy satellite on board. Liftoff happens at about 23:55 into this ISRO webcast video:

[ Update: So many launches it’s hard to keep up. I left out this Russian Soyuz  2-1b launch on Tuesday, Dec.10, which successfully put a navigation satellite into orbit: Soyuz 2-1b launches latest GLONASS satellite – returns Plesetsk pad to service –


*** Dec. 7: China launched two Kuaizhou-1A rockets within a few hours, putting a total of seven satellites into orbit. This included the Jilin-1 Gaofen-2B remote sensing satellite for the Jilin constellation on the first launch and six smallsats on the second rocket:

*** Dec. 6: Russian Soyuz sent a Progress cargo vehicle to the ISS: Russia’s Progress MS-13 space freighter delivered into near-Earth orbit – TASS

The spacecraft docked with the ISS on Monday.

*** Dec. 6: Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket for the 10th time. Seven satellites were placed into orbit. In addition, the first stage booster remained intact after plummeting back through the atmosphere in a guided flight all the way to splashdown. This is a positive indication for plans to recover the boosters  and reuse them. This Electron was also the first to fly with a fully Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS).

*** Dec. 5: SpaceX Falcon 9 launched a Cargo Dragon to the ISS. The first stage successfully landed on a platform at sea.

The Dragon berthed to the station on Dec. 8th.

The team posted this montage of scenes from before and during the Falcon 9 launch, plus they show the booster at Cape Canaveral and the retracting of the legs.

** Boeing Starliner and Atlas V launcher are preparing for launch this month. The uncrewed  test flight to the ISS is currently set for Dec.20th at 6:36 am EST from Cape Canaveral: Boeing Uncrewed Flight Test Launch Date Update – Commercial Crew Program/NASA

**** Starliner and Atlas V at SLC-41 for Wet Dress Rehearsal –

Q&A from ULA’s Space Launch Complex 41 viewing Starliner atop its Atlas V Rocket in preparation for the upcoming OFT. More information on Starliner: News Site:… Forum Section:…

** Chinese rocket news items:

**** Testing of an hydrogen-oxygen engine for the Long March-8, which is expected to fly in 2020 for the first time:  China’s Long March-8 rocket successfully passes engine test – Xinhua

**** An upper stage solid fuel motor test, this time by the Chinese company Galaxy Space (Beijing Xinghe Dongli Space Technology Co. Ltd.): Chinese private rocket complete the third phase engine thermo ground test –

** Europe’s Space Rider uncrewed space plane to fly in 2022. The latest ESA budget includes full funding for the project, which has been led by Italy:

ESA’s Space Rider.

** Balloons can’t reach space but balloon tanks can:

** The Int. Space Elevator Consortium (SEC) posts an update on space elevator development: ISEC Newsletter – Dec.2019/Jan.2020

Road to the Space Elevator Era: This International Academy of Astronautics study report (4 years by 30 global space experts) was “released” during the IAC [2019] at the Robert Heinlein Prize Trust Booth (publisher). The report has significant inputs from ISEC and our members. Several of the ISEC concepts from our Chief Architect were accepted into the book and stood tall. These would include several of Fitzer’s Architectural Notes and his concept of a Galactic Harbour being a combination of a transportation infrastructure and an enterprise zone. This internationally endorsed study report again portrays an aggressive approach towards implementation of SEs. ISEC was instrumental in the content of the book and the editing of the content – as such, this year’s distribution of the document at the IAC was a “win-win.”

** SpaceX:

**** As usual, lots of activities underway across the wide range of SpaceX projects. Here are four upcoming Falcon 9 launches:

  • Dec. 16: Launch from Cape Canaveral of the Boeing built JCSAT 18/Kacific 1 comm-sat for SKY Perfect JSAT Corp. of Japan and Kacific Broadband Satellites of Singapore.
  • Late Dec: Starlink-2 launch of a batch of 60 operational Starlink satellites.
  • Jan.4: A “no-earlier-than’ (NET) date for the in-flight abort test in which a Crew Dragon spacecraft will separate from the Falcon 9 about a minute after to liftoff. This will simulate the
  • Early Jan: Starlink-3 launch of the third batch of 60 Starlink satellites

Articles about these flights:

**** A crewed Dragon flight to the ISS could happen as early as February if the in-flight abort and parachute tests are successful:

**** The Falcon upper stage successfully fired after coasting for a several hours following the release of the Cargo Dragon in last week’s mission discussed above. Such a capability is required for some types of satellite missions, especially for the military.

**** SpaceX plans to provide low cost launch services for smallsats on a fixed schedule.  This will mean tough competition for small rocket launch providers. The use of Momentus space tugs will also allow smallsats released from the Falcon to reach a wide array of orbits. SpaceX’s First Rideshare Customer Means Competition for Northrop – Motley Fool

The article exaggerates the threat, though, to Northrop’s Mission Extension Vehicles (MEVs). These are intended to keep large comm-sats in geostationary orbit in operation after they have run out of station-keeping fuel. The SpaceX and Momentus services are focused on low earth orbit missions for smallsats.

**** Starlink internet services need low cost ground station equipment if the project is to be financially successful: SpaceX wants to be your WiFi provider. This could be the company’s biggest hurdle – CNN.

SpaceX hopes to meet the demands of astronomers to reduce the glow of the Starlink satellites: SpaceX to experiment with less-reflective satellite coatings on next Starlink launch – Spaceflight Now

**** Recent Starship activities:

  • Boca Chica Beach, Texas:
    • Disassembly of the Mk.1 lower propulsion section that blew off its top during a pressure test on Nov.20th.
    • Mk.3 Starship assembly started with work on structural bands.
    • Construction of launch pad, control center, and other facilities.
    • Arrival of components from the Florida site via SpaceX ship.
  • Florida:
    • Scaling down of Starship assembly activities in favor of focusing on Starship building in Texas
    • Construction of Super Heavy Booster/Starship launch facility at Pad 39A at KSC

Here are articles and videos about these developments:

**** Boca Chica, Texas

****** A LabPadre report on events in Boca Chica:

****** Arrival of components from Florida

12.08.2019 Go Discovery entered the Brazos Santiago at 7:18 AM local time. Spectacular view of SpaceX bulk head and stands being delivered to Boca Chica complex. Dolphins at the bow at 2:00 min mark. All images are explicitly owned by LabPadre Media

****** SpaceX Boca Chica – Taking apart Starship Mk1 – NASASpaceflight

Disassembly of Starship Mk1 is in the final stages ahead of the stacking of Mk3. Sunrise. Normal speed disasembly, then additional clips in timelapse. Footage and photos from Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF.

**** New SpaceX Launch Control Center at Boca Chica, Texas – LabPadre – Dec.3.2019

It appears that SpaceX is breaking ground for their new launch control center here at Boca Chica, Texas. Fast paced progress ahead for the push of MK-3. Video Credit: Maria Pointer

** Florida Starship facility – Aerial view via John Winkopp – Dec.6.2019:

Aerial view, still not much changed, more equipment on the way out. One large piece of wing root has been placed in the blue container for shipping. All of the sheets of steel that was in the On Deck Area has been shipped out.

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Space transport roundup – Dec.3.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport (find previous roundups here):

[ Update Dec.4: Launch postponed due to high winds:

Update: The SpaceX webcast is active for the CRS-19 mission to the ISS (press kit):

And the pre-launch briefing held on Tuesday Dec.3rd:

An explanation was given regarding why the F9 booster is to land on a sea platform rather than return to the pad at Cape Canaveral: SpaceX’s surprise Falcon 9 drone ship landing explained ahead of Cargo Dragon launch – Teslarati.


** A SpaceX Falcon 9 is set to launch a Cargo Dragon to the ISS on Wednesday at 12:51 pm EST from Cape Canaveral. SpaceX Targeting Wednesday, Dec. 4, for CRS-19 Launch – SpaceX/NASA. The schedule:

    • 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3 – NASA Social, What’s on Board science briefing highlighting research taking place on CRS-19
    • 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3 – Prelaunch news conference from Kennedy with representatives from the International Space Station Program Science Office, SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing
    • 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4 – Launch countdown coverage begins

The first stage booster will aim to land on a platform at sea rather than return to the Cape landing pad: SpaceX Falcon 9 launch and landing imminent as drone ship heads to sea – Teslarati

In short, the ~350-km-downrange landing plan suggests that this Cargo Dragon launch may have a much smaller propellant margin than essentially every similar mission preceding it. This could be explained in a few ways. Maybe after Falcon 9 B1050’s surprise landing failure, SpaceX decided that all new Falcon 9 boosters will attempt drone ship landings after their first flight, minimizing the risk to Cape Canaveral in the event of a CRS-16 repeat. Another possibility, Crew Dragon capsule C205 – scheduled to support the spacecraft’s In-Flight Abort (IFA) test late this month or early next – may still be close to the Cape’s Landing Zones, another reason to avoid even the slightest chance of a catastrophic Falcon landing failure.

The official weather forecast gives a 90% chance of acceptable conditions at the time of liftoff.

CRS-19 coverage:

SpaceX may fit in four Falcon 9 launches this month counting CRS-19: After a slower launch year—by its standards—SpaceX plans a busy December | Ars Technica

After [CRFS-19], SpaceX should return to the launch pad in the middle of the month for its next launch, which will send the JCSAT 18/Kacific 1 communications satellite into space. This commercial mission is currently slated for no earlier than December 15, also from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. If the flight occurs on time, it will require a relatively quick turnaround at the launch pad.

On top of that, there are potentially two more missions before the end of the year—although the schedule for each may slip into January. SpaceX has not yet announced a launch date for the In-Flight Abort test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, a dramatic test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program that will see the Dragon pull rapidly away from the rocket. SpaceX employees are still working toward a launch by the end of December for the test.

SpaceX also may launch its third batch of 60 Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit before the end of this month, although the company has not announced an official launch date for this mission either.

More SpaceX items below.

** Uncrewed test flight of Boeing Starliner slips a couple of days: Boeing Uncrewed Flight Test Launch Date Update – Commercial Crew Program/NASA

The launch of Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, now is targeted for 6:59 a.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 19. NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) agreed to target the new date to allow ULA sufficient time to resolve an issue with the rocket’s purge air supply. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch atop a ULA Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

** Scott Manley reviews Chinese launcher systems:

China is now the number one nation in terms of rocket launches, with most of its launchers tracing their design heritage back to the Dong Feng 5 ICBM. This includes the Long March 2, 3 & 4 – all propelled by YF-20 family Engines burning UDMH & NTO The Newer Long March 5,6 &7 all use new cryogenic propulsion systems. Long March 11 is a solid rocket based system.

China looks to keep up its recent high launch rate: China to continue world-leading launch rate in 2020 –

** Update on the Rocket Lab Electron launch that was postponed from last week:

** Leo Aerospace is developing a high-altitude balloon Launch System: The goal is to offer low cost orbital and suborbital launch services. In addition, the platform can be used for long-loiter high-altitude applications.

Leo Aerospace Regulus high altitude balloon launch system.

Regulus Orbital is Leo Aerospace’s premier high-altitude orbital launch platform.  A fully and rapidly reusable craft, Regulus requires minimal refurbishment over lifetime operations.  Autonomous flight control provides optimized flight capabilities in a range of weather and mission envelopes. Additionally, its on-board, autonomous, command and control infrastructure continuously assesses system health.  Regulus is equipped with a rotational control system, comprised of a series of bipropellant thrusters.  This system is capable of controlling the entire platform’s yaw and roll profiles.  Regulus Orbital is designed for a typical mission of placing 25 kg to 550 km sun-synchronous orbit but can service a range of missions with payload capacity up to 57 kg with no fixed ground infrastructure.

See also : Space Startup Aims to Launch Cubesats on Balloon-Lofted Rockets |

** Update on construction  of second SpaceShipTwo from Virgin Galactic:

** SpaceX:

[ Update: More about the situation with the Starship assembly operations in Florida:


*** A major reduction in Starship assembly activity Florida is underway according to Felix Schlang in his SpaceX news video shown below.

However, Michael Sheetz of CNBC reports that the Florida Starship activities are paused rather than ended:

Some components from the  Florida site are being shipped to Boca Chica:

*** Views of Boca Chica activities:

NASASpaceflight – Dec.3.2019

A check around SpaceX Boca Chica – December 2, 2019
Features: Ongoing site preparation, more deliveries and Big Yellow gets dismantled.
Footage and photos from Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF.

LabPadre – Dec.3.2019:

It appears that SpaceX is breaking ground for their new launch control center here at Boca Chica, Texas. Fast paced progress ahead for the push of MK-3.  Video Credit: Maria Pointer

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Space transport roundup – Nov.30.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport (find previous roundups here):

** Rocket Lab‘s launch of an Electron rocket has been delayed:

More about the mission:

** China launched the Gaofen-12 earth observation satellite on a Long March-4C rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Taiyuan, capital of north China’s Shanxi Province, on Wednesday Nov. 28th9.

** More about latest UP Aerospace‘s SpaceLoft sounding rocket launch: UP Aerospace Announces Successful Launch of Space Loft-14 Rocket from Spaceport America – Spaceport America

The SL-14 Launch Vehicle reached an altitude of 57 miles. Additionally, as a fundamental step in UP Aerospace’s testing of new systems, this mission included a small second stage rocket motor and attitude control system. Advances made with the successful mission of these payloads will be pivotal as UP Aerospace moves toward the launch of their larger orbital vehicle, SPYDER.

In addition to these systems, SL-14 carried an experimental payload that seeks to improve access to space through the use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology. Using ADS-B for future space launch missions is expected to improve safety and reduce detrimental effects on commercial aviation. Other payloads on the mission also were designed to advance the state-of-the-art in avionics, flight management, and data recording with particular applications for emerging small launch vehicles.

** Blue Origin construction of Florida facilities continues apace: Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch pad taking shape at Cape Canaveral – ClickOrlando

Work has been ongoing on the launch complex preparing for New Glenn’s first launch but recently locals say it’s starting to take shape.

Space Florida’s Dale Ketcham called it a “monster” of a launch pad.

“It is going to be a beast,” Ketcham said.

And moving fast in Washington and California as well: Blue Origin expansion rushes ahead at Seattle-area HQ — and in L.A. – GeekWire

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is rapidly expanding on several fronts, ranging from its headquarters facility south of Seattle to a new beachhead in the Los Angeles area — within the orbit of its main competitor, Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Just three and a half years ago, Blue Origin’s workforce amounted to 600 employees, and even then, Bezos said his company’s 300,000-square-foot office and production facility in Kent was “busting out of the seams.”

Now the employee count is at around 2,500, heading toward 3,500 in the next year. That’s according to a report from a Bangkok space conference quoting Clay Mowry, Blue Origin’s vice president for global sales, marketing and customer experience.

** Boeing highlights reuse of Starliner crew spacecraft:

** SpaceX:

*** Dragon cargo mission CRS-19 set for Dec.4th:

*** Crew Dragon in-flight abort test flight expected in late December or early January: NASA Invites Media to SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test for Commercial Crew – NASA

This will be among the final major tests for the company before NASA astronauts will fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. As part of the test, SpaceX will configure the spacecraft to trigger a launch escape shortly after liftoff and demonstrate Crew Dragon’s capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an in-flight emergency. The demonstration also will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

** SpaceX and Blue Origin aim to win a contract to take big NASA payloads to the Moon:  SpaceX’s Starship to spar with Blue Origin for NASA Moon landing contracts – Teslarati

Assuming SpaceX’s technical know-how is mature enough to allow Starship to preserve cryogenic propellant for weeks or months after launch, it’s entirely conceivable that a Moon launch with, say, 10 tons of cargo could be achieved with just one or two in-orbit refuelings, all while leaving that Starship enough margin to safely return to Earth. Given that NASA awarded Intuitive Machines and Astrobotic approximately $80M apiece to land 50-100 kg on the Moon, it’s far too easy to imagine SpaceX quoting a similar price to deliver 10+ tons to the Moon by enabling full Starship reuse.

All things considered, politics still looms in the distance and there is just as much of a chance that SpaceX (and maybe even Blue Origin) will be passed over by CLPS when the time comes to award the next round of Moon delivery contracts. Still, the odds of something far out of the ordinary happening are much higher with a program like CLPS. Stay tuned!

*** Lots of interesting activities at the Boca Chica beach facilities in the aftermath of the Mk.1 demo Starship explosion during pressure testing. This includes construction of a launch site for the complete Super Heavy Booster/Starship.

**** SpaceX Boca Chica – Building the Starship Super Heavy Pad – November 26, 2019 [NSF]

Views around SpaceX Boca Chica, including groundwork on the future Super Heavy’s pad. Guest Stars: Concrete Smoother Guys. Footage and photos from Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF.

**** SpaceX Starship Mk3 hardware arrives – Boca Chica Expansion – November 27, 2019 [NSF]

 As parts of Starship Mk3 arrive (mostly bulkhead), expansion of the Boca Chica site continues, including at the Super Heavy pad. Guest appearance from Stargate Arrays being tested (likely ahead of CRS-19). Footage and photos from Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF.

**** SpaceX Starship Bulkhead and Second Ring Relocated Boca Chica, Texas [Nov.29.2019 – LabPadre]

Time lapse of the new partial bulkhead being moved to Iron Henge and second ring being moved from ring tent. This 24/7 stream is powered by LabPadre, in cooperation with Sapphire Condominiums and @BocaChicaMaria1 (Twitter) @SpaceXBocaChica (Facebook). All copyrights to live images are owned explicitly by LabPadre.

**** SpaceX Boca Chica Starship Progress Update  [Nov.29.2019 – Maria Pointer/LabPadre]

Second new tent frame continues to be erected. Tons of earth being moved on the West end of the property. More close ups of the damaged bulkhead from last weeks failure. New bulkhead has been moved into Iron Henge. MK-1’s nose sits quietly awaiting its fate.

**** SpaceX Starship Mk3 – Bulkhead heading for assembly/ongoing launch site work – November 29, 2019 [NSF]

The pace is picking up for Starship Mk3 in Boca Chica, with monolithic steel rings being fabricated (seen previous videos) and the bulkhead heading into the windbreak facility for assembly. Includes ongoing launch site work. Footage and photos from Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF. Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer) Learn about Starship Mk1, Mk3 onwards: UPDATES:… ARTICLES:…

*** In Florida, there are signs the Mk.2 components will move soon to KSC. There are also hints that construction activities will be re-distributed to facilities with fewer roadblocks for reaching KSC.

**** SpaceX Closing Down Starship work at Cocoa? [Nov.27.2019 – John Winkopp]

Aerial view. The big white crane is positioned at the nose cone so they can remove the header tank from the nose cone in prep for a move out of Cocoa. The header tank extends below the lip of the nosecone. The nosecone needs to be lifted to remove the header tank. It needs to be removed if the nosecone comes off its base for shipping. Wish I knew they were going to remove it, but did not see the actual removal.

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Space transport roundup – Nov.26.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport (find previous roundups here):

[ Update: Videos of the rocket action that took place on Tuesday:

** Successful Ariane V launch of the “TIBA-1, for Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space on behalf of the Government of Egypt; and GX5 for the operator Inmarsat”:

** A Indian PSLV successfully launched the Cartosat-13 remote sensing satellite and 13 commercial smallsats from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh :

** The static test of the Falcon 9 that will launch the upcoming Cargo Dragon mission to the ISS went well:


** Russia launched an unspecified military payload on a Soyuz-2.1v rocket on Monday:

** Chinese launched two Bei Dou navigation satellites on a  Long March 3B rocket on Saturday:

And the booster fell on a village: Once again, a Chinese rocket has doused a village with toxic fuel | Ars Technica

** Ariane V to launch TIBA 1 and Inmarsat GX5 comm-sats on Tuesday Nov.26th. The mission has endured several weather delays. Liftoff is set for 4:09 pm EST (2109 GMT, 6:09 pmFrench Guiana time). TIBA-1 was developed for the Govt. of Egypt byThales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space. The GX5 satellite os for the  Inmarsat. This launch will be the 250th launch of the Ariane family of rockets. The first launch was in 1979.

Sequence of major events in the typical launch of an Ariane 5. Credits: Arianespace

** Boeing Starliner crew spacecraft stacked onto Atlas 5 launcher. An uncrewed test flight to the ISS is currently set for Dec. 17th.

** Both Commercial Crew teams have important tests coming soon: Boeing Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon crew capsules on track for back-to-back launches – Teslarati

In the last two weeks alone, both companies have checked off major milestones while preparing their human-rated spacecraft for flight, and – with a little luck over the next few weeks – Starliner and Crew Dragon processing could align for back-to-back launches in the last few weeks of 2019.

** India to launch PSLV with Cartosat-3 imaging satellite plus 13 commercial smallsats. Liftoff now set for November 27, 2019 at 0928 hrs from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota

Attaching the side boosters to the first stage for the PSLV-49 mission. Credits: ISRO

** Rocket Lab prepares for the 10th (‘Running Out Of Fingers’) Electron rocket launch. Liftoff is set for 07:56 UTC on November 28th: Next Generation Electron Booster on the Pad for Rocket Lab’s 10th Mission – Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab, the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, announced today that its next mission will launch multiple microsatellites in a rideshare mission representing five different countries. The launch window for Rocket Lab’s tenth flight, named ‘Running Out Of Fingers,’ will open 25th November NZDT and take place from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.

Onboard this rideshare mission are six spacecraft comprised of 5cm PocketQube microsatellites from satellite manufacturer and mission management provider Alba Orbital. The final payload on board was procured by satellite rideshare and mission management provider Spaceflight for ALE Co., Ltd (ALE), a Tokyo-based company creating microsatellites that simulate meteor particles.

Electron’s first stage will not be recovered from this mission, however the stage includes new hardware and sensors to inform future recovery efforts. As part of a first stage block upgrade, Electron’s booster will include guidance and navigation hardware, including S-band telemetry and onboard flight computer systems, to gather data during the first stage’s atmospheric re-entry. The stage is also equipped with a reaction control system to orient the booster during its re-entry descent.

Rocket Lab’s Founder and CEO, Peter Beck, says increasing launch frequency for small satellite operators is the key driver behind Rocket Lab’s reusability program.

A new antenna will help with the booster recovery plans:

** Firefly Aerospace qualifies stage 2 propulsion system for Alpha rocket:

** Development of ULA‘s ground-breaking ACES upper stage/space tug slowed, presumably due to lack of support from Boeing and/or Lockheed-Martin, which jointly own ULA: ULA gets vague on Vulcan upgrade timeline –

As United Launch Alliance prepares for the maiden flight of its Vulcan Centaur rocket, the company no longer has a clear timeline for a major second-stage upgrade. 

ULA is preparing to launch Vulcan Centaur in 2021. The rocket features a new first stage powered by BE-4 engines from Blue Origin and an improved version of the Centaur upper stage currently used on ULA’s Atlas 5. 

ULA had planned as recently as 2018 to replace Centaur with ACES, short for the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, in 2023. ACES would have the ability to operate in space for weeks instead of hours, enabling transport between orbits and more missions beyond Earth, while also increasing how much Vulcan could lift. 

** ArianeGroup to upgrade Ariane 6 but not to reusability level: Five upgrades ArianeGroup wants Europe to consider for Ariane 6 –

Bonguet declined to say how much funding ArianeGroup is seeking at the ministerial. But the company has already started several Ariane 6 upgrades in anticipation of future ESA support, he said. Gaining ESA funding at the ministerial would ensure Ariane 6 continues to evolve in its early years. Bonguet listed five improvements ArianeGroup will seek funding for at the ministerial.

More about Ariane 6 development:

** UP Aerospace launches SpaceLoft XL rocket from Spaceport America on Nov.22. The rocket carried experiments sponsored by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. From the latest Flight Opportunities newsletter:

SpaceLoft XL launch on Nov.22, 2019. Credits: NASA
On Nov. 22 UP Aerospace launched its SpaceLoft rocket on a flight funded by the company’s NASA Tipping Point award. The Affordable Vehicle Avionics (AVA) project from NASA’s Ames Research Center was one of several payloads onboard.
The AVA technology flew on two previous SpaceLoft flights supported by Flight Opportunities, with the goals of testing the technology in a relevant environment and leveraging the knowledge gained from the flights to aid development. The most recent flight was the first to test the flight computer’s ability to provide the “brains” for UP Aerospace’s own guidance and control system in a fully integrated demonstration that included firing a second-stage motor. Ultimately, the small company plans to integrate its guidance and control system with technology like AVA on Spyder Orbital—a four-stage solid motor rocket that UP Aerospace is developing specifically for dedicated small payload launches. 
The launch also included Flight Opportunities–supported tests for three other technologies. They included an autonomous flight termination system from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a micro-avionics system from Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems and a ADS-B transmitter prototypefrom the Federal Aviation Administration. Development teams for each experiment aim to gather data that will help them advance their technologies, working toward eventual inclusion on NASA missions or commercial space vehicles, including dedicated small payload launchers.

** Space plane projects in Germany and Japan: Advanced technology, investment clearing way for spaceliners –

Development of spaceplanes for suborbital tourism, satellite launches and point-to-point terrestrial transportation are benefiting from advanced technology, panelists said at the Space Tech Expo Europe here.

“It was completely different 30 years ago,” said Koichi Yonemoto, co-founder and chief technical officer of Space Walker, a Japanese startup developing a suborbital spaceplane to launch satellites and, later, carry tourists. “At that time, everyone wanted to do single stage to orbit. To do that, you need a very efficient air-breathing engine. We did not have such an engine.”

*** POLARIS Raumflugzeuge (POLARIS Spaceplanes) of Germany is developing the Aurora Launcher, a two-stage system with a reusable suborbital winged rocket vehicle and an expendable upper-stage.

    • Two-Stage-To-Orbit, 1150 kg LEO payload
    • Reusable main-stage, small expendable upper-stage  
    • LOX/kerosene propulsion
    • Conventional runway take-off & landing
    • Based on >30 years of research on rocket-propelled spaceplanes in Germany
Artist’s rendering of Aurora spaceplane. Credits: Polaris Spaceplanes

** Japan’s SPACE WALKER developing a suborbital Space Plane:

SPACE WALKER was established in December 2017 with the aim of designing and developing sub-orbital space planes and providing operational services with the aim of creating a future where anyone can travel to space as easily as riding a plane. Currently, we are working on the development of a sub-orbital space plane for scientific experiments scheduled to be launched in 2022 with a technology partner company (* 2).

As of October 15, 2018, the angel round for the purpose of maintaining the development team structure and the basic concept of the aircraft was completed, and we received support from many people including Chairman Kasahara of Mixi Inc. We have been working on development with technology partners.

As of September 30, 2019, we have raised 370 million yen [US$3,405,850] in total from the Angel Round in less than two years since our establishment in December 2017.

Through this funding, we will strongly advance the research and development of a sub-orbital space plane technology demonstration machine that will be launched in 2022.

** Watch China’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft land on the Moon:

** Progress on construction of Blue Origin facilities for New Glenn at the Cape:

** Virgin Galactic aspires to long distance point-to-point travel : Virgin Galactic’s real goal may be point-to-point travel around Earth | Ars Technica.

However, it must be pointed out that the rocket performance required to go halfway around the world on a ballistic flight is only slightly less than going into orbit. So VG will need to achieve a substantial upgrade from the suborbital SpaceShipTwo to a P2P vehicle.

** SpaceX:

*** SpaceX to launch Falcon 9 with Cargo Dragon on CRS-19 mission to the ISS. Liftoff currently set for Wednesday, Dec.4th at 12:51 pm EST (1751 GMT) from Cape Canaveral.

A static test firing of the F9 engines is expected today:

See also Live coverage: Falcon 9 raised vertical at Cape Canaveral for static fire test – Spaceflight Now.

*** Next Starlink launch set for late December: SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation aims to become world’s largest after next launch – Teslarati

The same day that several dozen Starlink-1 satellites finished the climb up to their operational orbits, SpaceX announced media accreditation for its next Starlink launch, presumed to be Starlink-2. According to SpaceX, the mission is targeted for the last two weeks of December 2019, a schedule that will tighten as it gets closer. Previously expected to launch in early November, as few as two weeks after Starlink-1, Starlink-2 has suffered similar delays but still appears to be on track for 2019.

***More about the destruction of the Mk.1 demo Starship during pressure tests:

*** Work at Boca Chica transitioning to Mk.3 construction:

Workers are clearing up the remains of Starship Mk1, while preparing Boca Chica for the launch of future Starships, including Mk3, for which monolithic rings are already being machined on site, likely for this Mk3 vehicle. Footage and photos from Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF. Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer). Learn about Starship Mk1: UPDATES:… ARTICLES:…

*** SpaceX Starship Mk1: Funeral for a Bulkhead – Super Heavy Pad Construction

Multiple videos and photos of the recovery of the Mk1 Bulkhead that went flying during the test failure this week. Plus a view of the Super Heavy and Starship Launch Pads, the latter still with some debris yet to be removed. Footage from Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF.

*** More views of Boca Chica activities:

*** Florida Starship activity:

**** MK2 orbital demo Starship may be moving soon to the Kennedy Space Center:

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[ Update 4: A statement from SpaceX indicates that they were pushing the pressure extremely high as a test of the tank design since they had decided it would never fly.

Sounds like the Mk.2 in Florida may also not fly. Perhaps it will also be used for ground tests like this one.

See also

Update 3: Elon says they will learn from this and move on to Mk.3, which will be much closer to the actual flight design:

Update 2: During a pressure test of the Starship Mk.1 propulsion module today in Boca Chica, the top bulkhead blew off:

Will be interesting to see if they repair it or build a whole new propulsion module. Regardless, no Mk.1 test flight this year for sure. A flight of the Mk.2 in Florida may now happen before a demo Starship flight in Texas.

Update: NASA posted a video of the recent SpaceX Crew Dragon static abort firing test:


** China launched a two Kuaizhou-1A rockets in less than a week. The latest  one carried

two multimedia satellites into space on Sunday after the successful launch of a remote sensing satellite on Wednesday, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The two satellites have already entered the pre-set orbit by the time of release. The rocket, carrying the satellites named KL-α-A, KL-α-B, blasted off from northwestern China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 18:00 p.m. BJT. The two satellites atop were developed by the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites of Chinese Academy of Sciences to conduct Ka-band communication technology test for German customers.

More at:

** Japan’s Space One commercial rocket venture begins construction of a new launch facility: Japan’s 1st private-sector rocket launch site – NHK WORLD/JAPAN News

Space One is building the launch site in Kushimoto town, Wakayama Prefecture.

Space One is a joint venture funded by four companies — Canon Electronics, IHI Aerospace, Shimizu Corporation and Development Bank of Japan.

** Aerojet Rocketdyne demos a big electric propulsion system that will be used to move NASA’s Gateway lunar space station: Advanced Electric Propulsion Thruster for NASA’s Gateway Achieves Full Power Demonstration | Aerojet Rocketdyne

Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA recently demonstrated an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) thruster at full power for the first time, achieving an important program milestone.

Aerojet Rocketdyne-developed AEPS thrusters are slated to be used on the Power and Propulsion Element of NASA’s Gateway, the agency’s orbiting lunar outpost for robotic and human exploration operations in deep space.

The state-of-the-art AEPS Hall thruster operated at 12.5 kilowatts (kW) as part of its final conditioning sequence during testing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The thruster demonstrated stable operation at power levels ranging from 4.2 kW to 12.5 kW. Full electric propulsion thruster string integration will take place early next year.

‘Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System thruster demonstrates full power operation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.”

** Relativity Space promotes the Terran-1 rocket, which the company plans to start launching in 2021.

** Orbex shows off the company’s factory where the Prime rockets will be made:

Orbex, a U.K.-based company that hopes to start launching rockets from Scotland in the coming years, has revealed images of the facility where it will build its upcoming Prime launch vehicle.

Located in the town of Forres near Inverness in Scotland, the company’s facility will be used to construct each 17-meter long Prime rocket, designed to loft small satellites into polar orbit from the early 2020s.

Inside, the company says it has included a number of features to produce a lighter and more environmentally-friendly rocket. This includes, with regards to the former, a large carbon-fiber winding machine to build the exterior structure of the two-stage rocket, which the company says is among the largest in Europe.

See also

“Orbex has installed one of the largest high-speed automated carbon fibre winding machines in Europe in its Scottish factory, as well as a full size ‘autoclave’. This equipment allows engineers to have complete control over the design and pace of manufacture of all carbon fibre tanks, including the main stage tanks, which can be wound in a matter of hours. Orbex fuel tanks use specialized materials, including graphene, and specially developed processing techniques to ensure linerless compatibility with liquid oxygen.” – Orbex

** An update on Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser cargo vehicle development:

At the Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, Sierra Nevada Corporation unveiled the name for Dream Chaser’s cargo module element as well as provided an update on the status of the cargo craft as it prepares for its first flight in 2021.

Also discussed at the event were potential other applications for Dream Chaser, including but not limited to a Gateway logistics cargo vehicle, a standalone space station, and a crew transportation vehicle.

Today’s update came as Sierra Nevada continues to prepare its cargo version of Dream Chaser for its first voyage to the International Space Station in “Fall 2021,” according to Steve Lindsey – Vice President, Space Exploration Systems Space Systems for Sierra Nevada Corporation.

A test version of Dream Chaser’s “Shooting Star” cargo module on display at KSC this week. The blue panel is where a solar panel can be located. The gray structures on the sides represent where cargo modules can be attached.

Here is a video of a Sierra Nevada briefing held back in October 15th on the occasion of the arrival of the primary structure of the first Dream Chaser at a SNC facility in Colorado where they will  assemble the vehicle: Dream Chaser Primary Structure Arrives in Colorado – SNC

** The Space Show – Mon, 11/18/2019Joe Carroll discussed “tethers, artificial gravity, humans and long duration spaceflight, living in space, on the Moon and Mars plus much more”.

See also Carroll’s slides shown at IAC 2019: Do Humans Have a Future in Moon or Mars Gravity 2019 IAC rev Nov14 no video.pptx.

** How SpinLaunch will swing payloads into space: Flinging Small Satellites Into Orbit on the Cheap – Wired/Spaceport America

Jonathan Yaney and his colleagues at SpinLaunch, a startup based in Long Beach, California, believe they’ve found the answer. Their nearly fuel-free system, known as a mass accelerator, will use a giant vacuum-sealed centrifuge to spin a payload to more than 4,000 mph. Once released, the payload will go screaming through the atmosphere, coasting nearly 30 vertical miles before propelling itself the rest of the way to orbit by means of a small rocket. The company already has a working prototype; Yaney calls it “science fiction stuff.”

Eventually, Yaney claims, SpinLaunch will be able to fling several 200-pound payloads into space every day, at a cost of less than half a million dollars each— five or 10 times cheaper than the competition. Human passengers are out of the question; the accelerator would turn their bodies to mush. Even satellites must be specially hardened to survive the ride. But that’s a small concession, Yaney argues, when you’re talking about putting together, say, a constellation of internet satellites in a matter of days rather than months.

** OHB of Germany recently  joined the crowded ranks of smallsat launcher developers: OHB defends self-funded launcher effort –

OHB is best known for building Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites, but the company also supplies many of the structures and tanks for the Ariane 5 and upcoming Ariane 6 rockets. 

This year OHB revealed plans to develop its own rocket, targeting the small satellite market around the range Rocket Lab’s Electron addresses today. 

OHB hopes to have a small launcher capable of sending 200 kilograms to low Earth orbit conduct a first flight by the end of 2021, Fuchs said in an interview at Space Tech Expo Europe here. The German prime contractor established an entity called Rocket Factory Augsburg to spearhead the small launcher program.

** SpaceX:

*** Falcon 9 booster used for the recent Starlink launch returns from the sea: SpaceX Falcon 9 booster returns to port on a drone ship for the first time in six months – Teslarati

*** The legs were soon removed and the booster laid on its transporter:

[ Update: The guys at capture a video of the booster on its way to the hangar:


*** Starship program:

**** Testing of the Starship Mk1 began this week in preparation for its first flight from Boca Chica Beach, Texas: SpaceX’s Starship comes to life for the first time in lead-up to launch debut – Teslarati

An anthropomorphization sometimes used to describe the venting launch vehicles often exhibit while during and after fueling, Starship Mk1’s so-called ‘breaths’ occurred around 5:59 pm CST (23:59 UTC). Those first vents came after roughly an hour or two spent performing several different pressurization cycles, observable due to the fact that Starship’s stainless steel tanks visibly smoothed out as pressure increased.

Due to the typical distances Starship is viewed from and the nature of the mirror-finished stainless steel SpaceX has chosen to build the next-generation launch vehicle out of, the exterior of Starship prototypes can produce a reflection that looks bumpy and disjointed. This has lead many a layperson to incorrectly assume that SpaceX’s Starship prototypes are thus shoddily built. In reality, viewed from afar, the tiniest hint of surface heterogeneity on a mirror can dramatically change what is reflected on its surface.

Even at the thinness of Starship Mk1’s liquid oxygen and methane tanks, stainless steel is still extremely strong, but pressurizing the vehicle’s tanks can clearly counteract a significant portion of the slight imperfections in their curvature.

**** Additional views of Starship Mk1 activities at Boca Chica from the past few days

Following Monday’s initial testing, engineers entered Starship Mk1 for checks ahead of the cryoproofing test objectives potentially later this week. Long video (down to 12 mins thanks to timelapse, lots of viewpoints, with special guests: Starship Internal Ladder and Concrete Smoother guy. Learn about Starship Mk1: UPDATES:… ARTICLES:… Video and photos from Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF.

Starship Mk1’s first cryo loading tests are just around the corner as workers prepare the test vehicle by flushing out the lines and pressurizing the commodity tanks. Venting IS normal (or “norminal” as SpaceX would say. 🙂 Learn about Starship Mk1: UPDATES:… ARTICLES:… Lots of videos (some time-lapse) and Photos by Mary (@bocachicagal) for

**** And view of the Starship Mk2 in Cocoa Beach, Florida

Some delicate adjustments to the propellant bulkhead:

**** Yusaku Maezawa gets a souvenir from the Starhopper.  The cost of development of the Starships has been helped by a down payment from Yusaku Maezawa for a trip on a Starship flight around the Moon with a group of artist friends. Elon Musk gifts SpaceX Starship angel investor a piece of Starhopper history – Teslarati

**** NASA will accept bids from SpaceX to use a Starship for lunar missions:

A SpaceX Starship on the Moon. Credits: SpaceX via NASA PR

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