Category Archives: Rockets

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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Space transport roundup – Nov.20.2019

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

[ 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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Space transport roundup – Nov.16.2019

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

** SpaceX executes successful static firing of Crew Dragon launch escape system.  A similar firing last April led to an explosion caused by leaks and other problems in the propellant plumbing. Assuming the data looks OK in closer examination, this firing allows for SpaceX to proceed to the in-flight abort test flight, presumably in December, in which a Crew Dragon will detach from a Falcon 9 upper stage not long after launch to simulate the escape from a failing booster.

See also

More SpaceX entries below.

** China launches two rockets on same day – Sept.13th: China carries out 2 orbital launches inside 3 hours –

Firstly, a Kuaizhou-1A (Y11) launcher sent a remote sensing satellite into low earth orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province in northwest China, on 13 November 2019:

The Jilin-1 satellite constellation was developed on China’s Jilin Province and is the country’s first self-developed remote sensing satellite for commercial use. Data will be provided to commercial clients to help them forecast and mitigate geological disasters, as well as shorten the time scale for the exploration of natural resources.

The satellites were developed by the Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd under the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

And then a Long March-6 sent five  small remote-sensing satellites into orbit from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China’s Shanxi Province:

The new satellites – also designated Zhongzi, were developed by the DFH Satellite Co., Ltd. and the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) – are part of a commercial satellite project financed by the Ningxia Jingui Information Technology Co., Ltd. and will be mainly used for remote sensing detection.

This mission was the first low-inclination orbital launch for the Long March-6 launch vehicles, in response to the mission needs. The rocket was submitted to a series of technical upgrades, including take-off roll, horizontal guidance, new composite material double-walled mount barrel and others.

** UK govt. aims to develop plan for flight-testing Reaction Engines‘ SABRE engine:

The purpose of this call is to produce a roadmap for the next phase in the SABRE development. It is focused on flight-testing the core SABRE air-breathing engine and assessing the potential competitive positioning of future SABRE-powered applications in the future space transportation segment.

** US rocket company Launcher gets $1.5 million for rocket engine development:

From launcher:

Launcher Inc. has scheduled the first full-scale test of its E-2 rocket engine for mid-2020 after securing a $1.5M award from the U.S. Air Force and taking delivery of the world’s largest 3D printed combustion chamber. 

3D printed by AMCM (An EOS Group Company) in Copper Alloy on AMCM’s M4K machine, it is the world’s largest liquid rocket engine combustion chamber 3D printed in a single part. The combustion chamber is 34in (86cm) tall with an exit nozzle diameter of 16in (41cm).

Launcher E-2 engine employs a large 3-D printed combustion chamber.

** EXOS Aerospace says structural failure led to the in-flight abort and loss of the SARGE vehicle  on the recent launch at Spaceport America in October : Exos blames suborbital launch accident on structural failure –

In a statement released by the Texas-based company Nov. 14, Exos said its Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE, or SARGE, rocket was lost 48 seconds after its Oct. 26 liftoff from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

“We are still in the process of evaluating video and telemetry data; however, it appears a structural failure resulted in an abort and deployment of the recovery system at speeds far beyond its design capability,” the company stated.

** Airbus team flies TEXUS suborbital rocket from Esrange launch facility near Kiruna in northern Sweden:

Airbus has completed another successful space mission. On 15 November, the TEXUS-56 rocket completed a scientific research flight.

The research rocket took off at 10:35 CET from Kiruna, north Sweden, and gave the scientists involved six minutes of research in microgravity.  After the parachute landing of the rocket, the experiments were recovered by a helicopter team. The research teams will now evaluate the results.

“Mission accomplished! Our TEXUS team from Bremen has once again done a great job for our customers, ESA and DLR,” enthuses project manager Detlef Wilde. “With TEXUS, we offer very short preparation times, integrate the payloads and take care of the complete mission execution, including procurement of the rockets – a service that our customers love to use”.

Launch of the Airbus suborbital TEXUS-56 mission from Esrange Space Center in northern Sweden.

** SpaceX:

*** Falcon 9 first stage returns to port following landing at sea for the Starlink launch:

Incredible how well the first-ever four-time flown booster looks. Was sort of bad weather, the B1048.4 traveled thru 15ft seas.

*** Update on the first group of fully operational Starlink satellites to reach orbit: SpaceX says upgraded Starlink satellites have better bandwidth, beams, and more – Teslarati

Aside from a general improvement to the overall visual fit-and-finish of the v1.0 spacecraft, SpaceX’s official comments on the matter indicated that the most substantial changes between v0.9 and v1.0 were more related to each spacecraft’s advanced electronics and payloads. In the case of Starlink, each satellite’s primary payload is a high-performance suite of electronically-steered phased array antennas. Initially developed to improve the flexibility of tracking and scanning radars used by military fighter aircraft, phased array antennas (and radar) allow multiple beams to be aimed without physically moving the antenna.

SpaceX says that Starlink v1.0 satellites added a number of Ka-band antennas alongside upgraded Ku-band hardware similar to what was installed on Starlink v0.9. Ka and Ku refer to similar but different communications frequencies, with Ku-band generally offering greater reliability and cloud/rain tolerance, while Ka-band is a bit more sensitive to environmental factors but offers a substantially higher theoretical bandwidth.

*** SpaceX aims to launch the Kacific-1 comm-sat to orbit in DecemberSpaceX’s next Falcon 9 satellite launch a step closer as spacecraft heads to Florida – Teslarati

Known as Kacific-1 or JCSat-18 the massive spacecraft is scheduled to launch no earlier than mid-December and is current set to be SpaceX’s second to last or final launch of 2019. According to tweets published by operator Kacific and satellite manufacturer Boeing, the satellite departed Boeing’s El Segundo, California factory on November 4th and has probably already arrived in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

After arrival, Boeing technicians will inspect the satellite to ensure its road trip caused no damaged and fuel the spacecraft’s bipropellant and xenon propellant tanks. SpaceX technicians will then take over, encapsulating Kacific-1 inside a Falcon 9 payload fairing, transporting the assembly to its Launch Complex 40 pad, and attaching the fairing to an integrated Falcon 9 rocket.

*** Views of Starship Mk.1 construction activity at Boca Chica Beach, Texas:

Starship Mk1 is now preparing for cryo loading tests in the coming days, which will mark fuel tests ahead of the testing with her three Raptor engines.

*** Latest fly-around the Florida orbital Starship demo construction facility:

Aerial view of Cocoa Facility. Attachment points in the top of the engine section are close to completion so that the top dome can be installed. Three very large containers have arrived at the site who’s purpose is unknown. They are located in various locations. One out front of main facility, one on the side of the facility and one in the small tent on the side of the facility.

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See You In Orbit?: Our Dream Of Spaceflight

Space transport roundup – Nov.10.2019

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

** SpaceX Falcon 9 set to launch 60 Starlink satellites on Monday at 9:56 am EST, 14:56 UTC.

[ Update: The launch was a success. The booster landed right on target and the satellites were deployed as planned. Apparently the sea was quite rough, though, and so the ships returned without any attempt to capture the fairings.


This will be the first  booster to fly four times. It will also be the first time that a recovered fairing will be re-flown. SpaceX will attempt to catch both fairings from this flight with two ships outfitted with large nets.

More about the mission:

More SpaceX items below.

** Updates on the recent Boeing Starliner pad abort test. (See previous roundup.)

A second video from Boeing:

Boeing said Nov. 7 that a misplaced pin prevented a parachute from deploying during a pad abort test of its CST-100 Starliner vehicle three days earlier, the only flaw in a key test of that commercial crew vehicle.

In a call with reporters, John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for commercial crew at Boeing, said an investigation after the Nov. 4 test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico led the company to conclude that a “lack of secure connection” between a pilot parachute and the main parachute prevented that main parachute, one of three, from deploying.

See also

** Update on Boeing’s uncrewed Starliner test mission to the ISS currently set for Dec. 17th: OFT Mission Taking Shape at Space Launch Complex 41 – Commercial Crew Program/NASA

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket set to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on its maiden voyage to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is ready for the mating of Starliner to the top of the launch vehicle.

On Monday, Nov. 4, the Atlas V’s first stage was lifted to the vertical position inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, followed by the mating of two solid rocket boosters to the booster. ULA teams then attached the Centaur upper stage and launch vehicle adapter atop the Atlas V first stage.

** The history of Japan’s reusable suborbital rocket projects are described in this set of tweets:

See also a related item in an earlier roundup.

** Video tour of Rocket Lab‘s New Zealand launch facility:

Join Amanda Stiles, Director of Mission Management and Integration, as we take you on a tour of Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1. Located on the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand’s East Coast, LC-1 is the best spot in the world to launch more frequently than anywhere else on the planet.

** “What are Hypergolic Rocket Fuels? (Other than Explosive, Corrosive, Toxic, Carcinogenic and Orange)” – Scott Manley answers the question, ”

Hypergolic fuels are a core technology in rocket science, propellents that will spontaneously combust when mixed together. This makes them attractive for rocket designers, who generally aren’t the people who have to get in a the protective gear to load the stuff. So, what are they made of, and why do designers pick one option over another?

** Govt launch cost estimates as seen by former Shuttle mission director, Wayne Hale. See the response from Eric Berger on Twitter. Hale was probably responding to Berger’s article on SLS mission launch estimates in which Berger concluded the following:

Adding all of this up, the true cost of a Space Launch System mission with Orion on top in the 2020s, including the rocket’s development but excluding ground systems and Orion development costs, appears to be in the ballpark of $5 billion per flight. Let’s hope the astronauts are served more than just pretzels after takeoff.

I’ve always been amazed and angered that NASA for decades has gotten away with using theoretical marginal cost numbers (i.e. count only the cost of fuel, metals, operators salaries, etc. to do one additional flight)  when asked for the cost of a Saturn V, Shuttle or SLS mission. This is clearly a grossly misleading way to answer the question of how much taxpayer money it took for a flight to take place. I’m quite disappointed that Hale defends the practice and I posted a comment on his post but he hasn’t approve it. So [Now approved.] here is what I said (with some typos fixed):

So the cost of the James Webb ST is not $10B, like those knuckle-headed bloggers claim, but is actually ~$500M because that’s about how much it would cost to build a second one?

Marginal (i.e. incremental) cost is an interesting number after making a million widgets and you want to know how much the next widget costs. The fixed cost contribution vanishes. Marginal cost is an irrelevant number when only making, or launching, a 100 or so widgets. The fixed cost contribution doesn’t vanish – and no magical accounting or browbeating by a highly respected Flight Director can make it do so.

It’s definitely relevant to know who is doing the calculation but it’s also good to know if the calculation answers the question being asked. In this case, the question from taxpayers is simply how much did it cost to make those [135] Shuttle flights happen? If only $105B instead of $210B (in 2010 dollars) had been allocated, would [135] launches still have taken place? No, of course not. It is irrelevant if NASA used a substantial portion of the money for items like roofs and non-essential civil servant salaries. That’s what govt organizations do with their budgets. If half the total Shuttle expenditure had instead been allocated to NASA, half [i.e. 67] or fewer flights would have happened.

Yes, who calculates what number is a factor. We can be sure NASA in the next few years will calculate $500M as the cost of a SLS flight. And the $3B+ that it will cost to make each flight happen will be [accurately] calculated by knuckle-headed bloggers.

** SpaceX:

*** Video: Elon Musk discusses SpaceX and the importance of fully reusable rockets at a US Air Force event last week:

Opening day of Air Force Space Pitch Day. The two-day event was hosted by the U.S. Air Force to demonstrate the Air Force’s willingness and ability to work with non-traditional startups. The “Fireside Chat” features Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, Space and Missile Systems Center Commander, and Elon Musk, Space X Chief Engineer. The chat covers the future of space, space industry, how to find talent, and various other topics.

See also SpaceX Starship: Elon Musk outlines an ultra-low price tag for launches | Inverse

*** USAF also testing Starlink for global broadband communications capabilities SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet was tested by the US Air Force and the results are in – Teslararti

The technical viability and utility of beaming high speed, low-latency broadband internet directly into the cockpits of military aircraft is being tested under a program called Global Lightning. SpaceX has engaged the initiative and was awarded $29M to pursue development and testing, far more than any other contract recipient. In October 2019, SpaceX and the USAF began publicly discussing the latest results of that effort to test Starlink’s capabilities in the realm of in-flight connectivity. As reported by SpaceNews, SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell revealed that Starlink had successfully demonstrated a data link to the cockpit of a military aircraft with a bandwidth of 610 megabits per second (Mbps), equivalent to a gigabyte ever ~13 seconds.

*** Views of recent Starship construction activity at Boca Chica Beach:

[ Update: A video from Sunday:


*** And a fly-around of the Mk2 Starship construction activity in Florida:

Aerial Flyby, Quiet Sunday. Working on new ring on top of the engine section. Hints of 6 Raptor engines to be included on MK2. Lot of sheets of steel getting stored in the “On Deck” area. These sheets can be used to construct domes and nosecones.

*** Speaking of Florida, launch facilities for Starships are under construction at KSC: SpaceX begins Starship launch mount installation at historic Pad 39A in Florida – Teslarati

At the same time as SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas team is working around the clock to prepare Starship Mk1 for several major tests, the company is building a second dedicated Starship launch complex at Pad 39A and as of November 4th, that construction effort has reached a symbolic milestone.

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