A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport:

** SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launches Cargo Dragon on CRS-17 mission to the ISS. Rendezvous and berthing to the station is set for early Monday morning. NASA TV coverage will start at 5:00 am EDT.

The full webcast:

More about the launch and the CRS-17 cargo mission:

** Rocket Lab Electron launch postponed to run more checks on the satellite payloads. Next chance will be Sunday morning.

Updates at:

** More about the MOMO-F3 launch by Interstellar Technologies in Japan on Friday:

This suborbital mission, the first success after two failures, is a boost to the company, which aims eventually to send a payload to orbit. From AP:

The company, founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Takafumi Horie, who was a former Livedoor Co. President, aims to develop low-cost commercial rockets to carry satellites into space. Horie expressed high expectations for his new business.

From Interstellar:

Interstellar Technologies Inc.(Hokkaido-Hiroo-Taiki JAPAN, CEO: Takahiro Inagawa, hereafter referred to as “IST”)announces that Flight 3 of the sounding rocket MOMO has successfully launched and achieved designated trajectory.

MOMO, the third in it’s series of sounding rockets designed and fabricated in IST, lifted off at 05:45 AM (JST), May-04-2019 from IST’s launch pad in Taiki, Hokkaido.

The vehicle successfully carried it’s payload to the designated trajectory, becoming the first privately funded rocket in Japan to exceed an apogee of 100km.

Details of the launch are as follows:

    • Flight duration : 515 seconds
    • Maximum altitude : 113.4 km [preliminary value]
    • Downrange : 37 km from the launch site

This was the first successful attempt following two consecutive failures for the previous MOMO series, and has provided valuable telemetry data for further development within IST. IST expresses deep gratitude towards all sponsors, companies, institutions, and individuals who have supported the success of the MOMO project. IST is geared towards continuous development of both the MOMO series and the upcoming orbital rocket “ZERO”, with the goal of providing affordable, flexible access to space.

** SpinLaunch constructing a catapult-style launch system at Spaceport America in New Mexico:

From the SVBJ article:

The Sunnyvale, California-based company signed a multiyear lease for acreage from the commercial space hub near Truth or Consequences in January, and its facility is set to house at least 20 people, spokeswoman Diane Murphy previously told Business First.

SpinLaunch will invest $7 million in construction and $1 million in infrastructure development, Business First previously reported. The deal is important for the $220 million taxpayer-subsidized Spaceport, which has struggled in the past to secure tenants.

SpinLaunch has been shy about giving details of its system, but it appears to be similar to the Slingatron concept. The modules launched will need to be hardened for the tremendous heating from the atmosphere. The catapult would provide about three quarters of orbital speed so the module would still need a propulsion system of its own to provide the final kick to reach a stable orbit.

In 2018, the company convinced investors to provide enough capital to build an initial system: Stealth space catapult startup SpinLaunch is raising $30M | TechCrunch

[SpinLaunch founder Jonathan Yaney ] explains that reaching orbital velocities typically “requires a rocket to carry massive quantities of propellant, leaving only a small fraction (a few percent) of the overall vehicle’s mass for ‘cargo.’” But SpinLaunch replaces rocket boosters with a kinetic launch system using principles “similar to those explored by several ground-based mass accelerators that date back to the 1960s. Modern adaptations include electromagnetic rail and coil guns, electrothermal-chemical guns, light gas guns, ram accelerators, and blast wave accelerators.”

He says “SpinLaunch employs a rotational acceleration method, harnessing angular momentum to gradually accelerate the vehicle to hypersonic speeds. This approach employs a dramatically lower cost architecture with much lower power.” SpinLaunch is targeting a per launch price of less than $500,000, while Yaney says “all existing rocket based companies cost between $5 million and $100 million per launch.”

Total funding has reached about $45M according to Leonard David. See also This Startup Got $40 Million to Build a Space Catapult – Bloomberg.

The NM spaceport is an inland site intended for suborbital missions. It will be interesting to see if SpinLaunch plans to use the system there only for suborbital tests or will try to take advantage of the nearby Nevada Test and Training Range to obtain sufficient buffer distance to get to orbit before overflying civilian areas. Years ago, Kistler Aerospace seriously considered orbital rocket launches from the Nevada Range.

The tremendous accelerations and heating involved with catapult launchers limit the kinds of payloads they can send to space. However, such a launcher would be great for providing a low cost method to deliver a continuous stream of bulk supplies (e.g. food, fuel, water, etc) once there are large scale habitats and other facilities in orbit.

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