Category Archives: Rockets

Astroscale and Virgin Orbit partnering on satellite servicing initiatives

This sort of announcement seems particularly  following this week’s news of a Russian anti-satellite demonstration creating thousands of new space debris objects in low earth orbit:

Responsive satellite servicing and sustainable space launches
get a boost through Astroscale, Virgin Orbit Partnership

ASCEND Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, Nov. 17, 2021 Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability across all orbits, today announced it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with Virgin Orbit, the responsive launch and space solutions company that has announced a planned business combination with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II (“NextGen”) (NASDAQ: NGCA). The MOU establishes a new partnership in which the two companies will seek opportunities to cooperate on a series of space initiatives that will drive the future of space sustainability and on-orbit servicing ecosystem. Astroscale is planning dozens of missions over the next decade and is in discussions with Virgin Orbit to launch as many as 10 of those on Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne. The two companies are also working toward a future joint mission concept focused on satellite servicing.

LauncherOne rocket released from carrier aircraft. Credits: Virgin Orbit

Astroscale and Virgin Orbit share a vision of creating a sustainable space environment and will explore areas of cooperation on policy and regulatory efforts in the fields of space sustainability, space debris removal, government partnerships, launch and on-orbit servicing spectrum allocation. The MOU also includes a partnership to study the business potential of a joint Global Responsive Satellite Servicing capability, pre-encapsulating Astroscale payloads and storing them at LauncherOne spaceports, as well as promoting U.S.-Japan and U.S.-UK bilateral cooperation with a responsive launch capability from Virgin Orbit’s launch sites in Oita, Japan, and Spaceport Cornwall, UK. The two companies are also discussing a future mission concept wherein Astroscale would utilize its robotic arms payload and/or docking plate on the LauncherOne system.

“The space industry is on the cusp of a new era, with flexible and responsive launch and satellite servicing an emerging reality,” said Nobu Okada, Founder & CEO of Astroscale. “This partnership with Virgin Orbit will bring value to these rapidly developing sectors, not just for technology development, but for business and regulatory innovations as well. Virgin Orbit is a like-minded company that is revolutionizing the way we launch and access space while maintaining a commitment to space sustainability.”

[Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said, ]

“We at Virgin Orbit are excited to partner with Astroscale to foster the development and promotion of the responsible, sustainable use of space,” […] “Our LauncherOne System already has key features that minimize the impact of space launch on Earth. We’re committed to finding ways to protect the space and Earth environments, and we’re highly motivated to drive forward technologies that will enable orbital debris clean-up.”

In addition to pursuing joint activities, Virgin Orbit recently joined The Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS), an international industry group representing the on-orbit servicing ecosystem. Astroscale is already an active member of CONFERS, which is advancing the on-orbit servicing industry by leveraging best practices from government and industry to research, develop, and publish technical and operational standards for OOS and Rendezvous and Proximity Operations.

Artist view of the Astroscale ELSA-d spacecraft to demonstrate in-space rendezvous and capture of debris objects and derelict spacecraft.

About Astroscale: Astroscale is the first private company with a vision to secure the safe and sustainable development of space for the benefit of future generations, and the only company dedicated to on-orbit servicing across all orbits.

Founded in 2013, Astroscale is developing innovative and scalable solutions across the spectrum of on-orbit servicing, including life extension, in situ space situational awareness, end-of-life, and active debris removal, to create sustainable space systems and mitigate the growing and hazardous buildup of debris in space. Astroscale is also defining business cases and working with government and commercial stakeholders to develop norms, regulations, and incentives for the responsible use of space.

Headquartered in Japan, Astroscale has an international presence with subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, and Singapore. Astroscale is a rapidly expanding venture company, working to advance safe and sustainable growth in space and solve a growing environmental concern.

Find out more about Astroscale at www.astroscale.com.

About Virgin Orbit: Virgin Orbit builds and operates the most flexible and responsive satellite launcher ever invented: LauncherOne, a dedicated launch service for commercial and government-built small satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and are air-launched from our modified 747-400 carrier aircraft — allowing us to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Orbit’s talented and growing team, visit virginorbit.com.

About NextGen: NextGen Acquisition Corp. II is a blank check company whose business purpose is to effect a merger, share exchange, asset acquisition, share purchase, reorganization or similar business combination with one or more businesses. NextGen is led by George Mattson, a former Partner at Goldman, Sachs & Co., and Gregory Summe, former Chairman and CEO of Perkin Elmer and Vice Chairman of the Carlyle Group. NextGen is listed on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “NGCA.” For more information, please visit www.nextgenacq.com.

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Space transport roundup: Part 3 – SpaceX – Oct.27.2021

This roundup provides a sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport (find previous roundups here). The roundup is split into three postings:

  • Part 1: Orbital launches
  • Part 2: Light orbital lift development, suborbital, space transport articles, news, videos, etc.
  • Part 3: SpaceX Falcon 9, Dragon, and Starship

Falcon  9 and Dragon

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch rate slowed considerably this past summer. There were 20 missions flown from January through June but none in July and just three from August till the middle of October. There were several factors leading to the slowdown, the primary one being the completion by June of the initial phase of the Starlink constellation buildup. (See links at bottom here for latest info on the Starlink project). Thirteen of those 20 missions each sent 50+ Starlink satellites into low earth orbit. Those Starlinks went into +/- 55 degree inclination orbits where they can provide Internet services to people living in the mid-latitudes.

The next phase of the Starlink project requires launching satellites to polar orbits to enable full global coverage. It appears most of these polar missions will be launched from Vandenberg AFB in California.  The first polar orbital launch lifted off on September 14th (see below).  These second-phase satellites carry laser communications systems that enable in-space intra-constellation links, greatly reducing the latency of packets transmitted between far distant points on the globe. Completing development of the laser system and ramping up its production took extra time, which also contributed to the delay in launches.

The F9 launch rate is now picking up again with ten missions scheduled for the remaining months of 2021. A NASA crew of 4 is set to head for the ISS this Sunday, Oct.31.2021.

Here are items about the three F9 missions for August and September:

** Sept.16: Inspiration4 mission success. The first all-civilian spaceflight mission successfully sent four non-professional astronauts into orbit for four days and returned them safely to Earth. It was very successful at public outreach as well. The mission gained widespread media attention, most of which seemed quite positive.  A five episode special series on Netflix presented captivating profiles of the space travelers and followed their activities during training, the launch, in-orbit and through the return to a splashdown and recovery at sea. Funded by Jared Isaacman, the project surpassed his goal of raising $200M for St. Judes Children’s hospital. (Helped by a $50M contribution of Elon Musk and by Issacman’s own $100M.)

Reports, articles, and commentary:

** Inspiration4 inspires plans for multiple civilian flights per year on SpaceX vehicles.

*** Sept.14: Falcon 9 launches first Starlink mission from Vandenberg. The first stage booster successfully landed after its 10th flight. The 51 satellites deployed by the upper stage will go into orbits at 70 degree inclination with respect to the equator. Over 1700 satellites of the initial Starlink shell were launched from Cape Canaveral into 53 degree inclinations that allow Internet service to a band of the earth between +/- 55 degrees latitude. This West Coast launch began the filling of a second shell that will provide coverage to the polar regions. These are the first Starlink satellites to carry laser systems for in-space communications. This will allow the sats to connect directly with each other. Ground stations are few and far between in the polar regions so a laser network will provide for in-space data transfers to whichever satellite is currently above a ground station. Eventually lower latitude shells will also be replaced with sats equipped with laser-comm systems since in-space comm is faster than transversing optical fibers and multiple routers to reach a particular destination.

** Aug.29: SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Cargo Dragon to the ISS with nearly 2180 kg of supplies, equipment, and research materials. The rocket lifted off at 3:14 am EDT from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The booster B1061, on its fifth flight, landed successfully on the new ocean platform named, Shortfall of Gravitas. The spacecraft docked to the station on the morning of Aug.30th.

** Third SpaceX Commercial Crew Mission set for end of October. Crew 3 includes NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Raja Chari and German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer.  This  mission will actually be the fifth Crew Dragon flight with people on board when one includes the CCP demonstration mission plus the Inspiration 4 civilian flight discussed above.

** New ocean-going ships added for Crew Dragon recovery ops and for first stage landings:

Starship

Though there were no Starship test flights since the previous roundup at the end of July,  a tremendous amount of activity has taken place at the Boca Chica production and launch facility  in preparation for future Starship missions. These activities can be divided among the following sites and hardware systems:

  • Orbital Launch Site (OLS):
    • The OLS includes a launch integration tower (note that a second one is planned as well), a launch mount, and a vast ground infrastructure that includes huge upright cryogenic fluid tanks, a maze of piping, multiple fluid handling and cooling systems, electrical power distribution systems, etc. Substantial progress has been made in all of these areas.
    • Orbital Launch Integration Tower (OLIT):
      • Fitting out of the OLIT has continued night and day since the final segment was set in place by a huge crane in July. The OLIT will not only provide propellants and power to the Starship and Super Heavy booster but it will also stack the former onto the latter for launch and then catch each of the two during landings.
      • Quick Disconnect arm (QD) was installed at a level near the joint between the Starship and the Booster. It will be used to transfer propellants to and from the vehicle as well as stabilize the combo during high winds.
      • Mechazilla, as tagged by Elon Musk, was installed this past week onto the OLIT. This mechanism includes long arms  and moves up and down on the OLIT. It will lift, raise and stack a booster onto the Launch Mount and then stack a Starship on top of the booster.  It also will work with the QD to hold the combo in place. Furthermore, the “Chopsticks” will catch a booster during its landing and then catch a Starship to stack upon the booster.
    • Launch Mount:
      • The Starship/Booster combo will sit atop the Launch Mount until the 29 Raptor engines (33 on a later design) fire and send it into space. The Launch Mount consists of a circular structure atop six tall heavy pillars. The mounting structure provides a number of important duties including the feeding of propellants up till the moment of liftoff when the feed-lines must quickly disconnect, hold-downs to keep the rocket securely upright until liftoff when they must quickly and uniformly let go of the booster, electric power connections, etc. Work on the circular mount structure has been going on continuously from the time it was at the production site to the current position at the launch site, where it is enveloped in metal tubular scaffolding.
    • Orbital Tank Farm:
      • The tank farm consists of eight vertical tanks for storing liquid oxygen, liquid methane, and water. The tanks were built by SpaceX in a manner very similar to the booster and Starship from cylinders of stainless steel. Each of the eight tanks has now been encapsulated by an insulating shell, also built by SpaceX.
      • There are also several other tanks on the OLS for additional fluid handling and storage.
“Starbase under construction” – Elon Musk, Oct.22.2021
  • Starship 20:
    • Thermal protection tiles:
      • Black ceramic tiles for thermal protection during reentry from orbit were installed on the “belly” side of Starship 20 while it was in the High Bay but many were marked with tape to indicate that they needed adjustment, replacement, and/or testing. After the vehicle was moved to a mount at the launch site, these problem tiles were dealt with by workers lifted via mobile elevated work platforms. This was the first time a complete set of tiles were attached to a Starship. A handful of tiles have fallen off during tank pressure and engine tests but Elon has indicated such problems were expected.
    • Raptor installation:
      • Raptor engines, both the sea-level and vacuum optimized types, have been installed, removed, and re-installed a few times. (The Starship uses three Raptors optimized for sea-level pressure and three for vacuum.)
    • Tests:
      • Pressure testing of the propellant tanks.
      • Structural test with hydraulic actuators pressing on the bottom of the vehicle during pressurization of the tanks.
      • Firing tests of the sea level and vacuum Raptors (see video below).
      • On October 21st, a vacuum-optimized Raptor was fired for the first time outside of the company’s McGregor, Texas engine test site.
  • Super Heavy Booster 4:
    • Preparation of Booster 4 has been quite intense. After the booster and Starship were briefly mounted atop one another on the Launch Mount, the booster was moved back to the Build Site for additional work and then returned to the OLS where it currently sits atop a temporary mount.
    • Engines on Booster 3 were test fired back in July but there has not yet been a test firing of engines installed on Booster 4. (Booster 3 was partially disassembled and the lower portion currently remains standing at the launch site.)
  • Build site:
    • Starship 21:
      • Stacking of the segments is nearly complete in the Mid-Bay hangar.
    • Starship 22:
      • Several of the segments have been assembled and await stacking.
    • Boosters:
      • Stacking of Booster 5 is nearly complete in the High Bay hangar. Segments for Booster 6 have been observed.
    • New Wide Bay:
      • Construction of a third hangar is proceeding apace with the first metal frame pillars for the walls are being put in place following the completion of the foundation.
      • This hangar will be as tall as the high bay but roughly twice as wide.
    • High Bay:
      • The penthouse dining/bar facility on top appears nearly complete with the installation of large clear glass walls to allow visitors to see the facilities and watch launches and landings.
      • Staircase segments have been built and will apparently be stacked along the side of the building and will probably enclose the elevator, which currently rises in the open air.

To help meet all of these goals for Boca Chica, the company initiated a surge of workers by bringing them in from other facilities:

** SpaceX Starbase, Tx Flyover (October 18, 2021)RGV Aerial Photography.  A recent view from above the Boca Chica site; includes helpful labels on the many features of interest.

***** Aug.1: Starbase – July 2018 vs Aug.2021RGV Aerial Photography – A look at how the Boca Chica site has changed in the past three years.

** Status of development of Starships and boosters is displayed in this infographic posted by Brendan Lewis:

** SpaceX video shows highlights of activities at the Boca Chica spaceport:

** A timeline for Starship 20 and Booster 4:

** Date of first Starship orbital test flight remains uncertain. The intense effort at Boca Chica has paid off in terms of preparation for a test launch. Elon Musk on Twitter:

If all goes well, Starship will be ready for its first orbital launch attempt next month, pending regulatory approval

However, as he indicates, the FAA may not license a launch for at least a few months (see FAA environmental review discussion below). A NASA project to use special cameras to observe a Starship’s thermal protection surface during reentry is expecting a launch in March. Whether this will be the first Starship orbital launch is not said.

** Pace of Starship development now depends on the FAA. The Commercial Space Transportation wing of the FAA is currently reviewing whether the environmental impact study (EIS) that was approved several years ago for the SpaceX launch facility at Boca Chica Beach, Texas remains valid. The earlier EIS was based on Falcon 9 launches from the site while SpaceX subsequently switched the spaceport completely to Starship/Super Heavy Booster operations.

The FAA could decide that no revisions are needed, or that some revisions are needed, or that a new enviro study must be completed from scratch. A whole new study could means years of delay. However, from a draft assessment released in September (see links below), such an option seems unlikely. If the FAA instead requires that some number of elements of the old study must be redone or that some elements must be added, that might still mean months of delay before any test flights can be carried out.

Recently, the FAA held hearings in which members of the public could express their views on the Boca Chica project. The pros greatly out-weighed the cons but we won’t know for weeks or months whether issues brought up at the hearing motivated additional requirements on SpaceX.

Links to items about the FAA regulatory situation:

Note that according to the FAA draft reviews, the number of Starship/Super Heavy launches from Boca Chica would be limited to five per year. So SpaceX’s goal of eventually making daily Starship flights to orbit will await the completion of the two offshore launch/landing platforms, Phobos and Deimos.

** Meanwhile, firing tests of the Raptors on the Starship, and presumably soon the Booster, have started:

*** Full set of 29 Raptors have been installed on Super Heavy Booster #4:

Since August some engines have been removed and others installed.

*** Supplying propellants to ravenous Super Heavy Booster engines requires a monumental maze of piping and control lines:

**** Starship SN20 stacked atop Super Heavy Booster #4. The stacking lasted only few hours for fit checks and a photo op. However, it was a great milestone on the road to eventual launch. Later, Booster 4 was moved from the Launch Mount to a separate stand so that work could continue on the Mount.

More Tweets from Elon:

  • Aug 6: “An honor to work with such a great team
  • Aug.6 – Michael Scheetz: “Nice! How many heat shield tiles does Starship 20 need in total to survive reentry?
    • Elon: “It is ~98% done, but the remaining tiles are unique shapes requiring machining

  • Aug.6: “There is a reason no fully reusable orbital rocket has been built – it’s an insanely hard problem. Moreover, it must be rapidly & completely reusable (like an airplane). This is the only way to make life multiplanetary. Efficiencies of scale is why Starship is so large.

  • Aug.6: Elliott – “Will the tanks of the Ship and Booster be stretched over time, like how Falcon 9’s were?
    • Elon: “Inevitably
  • Aug.6: “Over time, we might get orbital payload up to ~150 tons with full reusabity. If Starship then launched as an expendable, payload would be ~250 tons. What isn’t obvious from this chart is that Starship/Super Heavy is much denser than Saturn V.
  • Aug.6: Sheetz – “What’s next after destacking? Pressure tests?
    • Elon: “4 significant items:
      – Final heat shield tiles for ship
      – Thermal protection of booster engines
      – Ground propellant storage tanks
      – QD arm for ship
      2 weeks.

  • Oct.20: Pranay Pathole – “How much tons of payload could Starship deliver to orbit if it were to do an expendable launch? Could it deliver ~300 tons to orbit expendable? That’d be like double of Saturn V!
    • Elon: “Well-optimized Starship would do ~250 tons to orbit as expendable & ~150 tons fully reusable
  • Oct.21 : Toby Li – “Looks like some TPS tiles fell off during the static fire. Do you think this will be a major issue for the orbital launch or does the team already have a solution?
    • Elon: “No, we expect some tiles to shake loose during static fires

*** Elon Musk interview and tour of Boca Chica facility with Tim Dodd, the “Everyday Astronaut. Below are the three videos in which Musk talks with Dodd as they first walk around the build site and then the launch site. Notes on Musk’s comments are available at Starbase Tour and Interview with Elon Musk | Everyday Astronaut.

** Vertical powered landing can be made safe enough for human passenger flights. Here’s a discussion of whether a vertical landing rocket vehicle like the Starship can be safe for human passengers:  Will Starship Landings Ever Be Safe Enough? — Part 1: Engine Reliability

With three engines lighting on each landing, the required engine reliability could be demonstrated with a high degree of confidence with a string of fewer than 100 nominal landings following fixes addressing engine failures on early flights.

Note that this does not take into account the fact that early crew flights will have a small enough complement that landed mass will be low enough for single engine landings, further reducing engine reliability requirements.

All this suggests that however hard other aspects of Starship may be to human-rate, the landing method is not likely to be a blocker to NASA astronauts landing on Earth with Starship this decade.

Orbital tourist flights with small complements require a similar degree of safety. Passenger counts are likely to increase over time as the system is refined and proven out. Eventual airliner-like reliability may or may not happen, but if it doesn’t, the engines, at least as far as soft failures are concerned, are highly unlikely to be bottleneck.

I imagine that somewhere between a 1:100k and 1:1 million whole flight fatality risk would be low enough for most people to feel comfortable using Starship for point to point transport — the most ambitious use case, in terms of required safety.

This would likely call for somewhere between a 1:3 million and 1:300 million risk due to soft engine failures on landing. On the low end, this calls for engine reliability comparable to the Merlin engine. On the high end, we’re looking at less than an order of magnitude improvement in reliability.

** Recent video reports on Boca Chica activities:

*** Hydraulic Actuator Lifted For Fit Checks on Mechazilla’s Chopsticks | SpaceX Boca ChicaNASASpaceflight – YouTube

A hydraulic actuator, used to move the Chopstick arms, was lifted for fit checks. Meanwhile, thermal insulating foam was spotted on Booster 4 around its QD plate and COPVs. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal) and Nic (@NicAnsuini). Edited by Jack (@theJackBeyer).

*** Oct.25: Booster 6 Aft Dome Ready for Sleeving | SpaceX Boca Chica NASASpaceflight – YouTube

The aft dome for Booster 6 was readied for sleeving as crews continue to work on Ship 21. Meanwhile, Perlite expansion furnaces were spotted at the launch site. Perlite is used as an insulator between the cryo shells and GSE tanks. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal) and Nic (@NicAnsuini). Edited by Derek “DK” Knabenbauer (@DKlarations).

*** Oct.24: Ship 21 Nosecone Rolled Out of Production Tent Ahead of Stacking | SpaceX Boca ChicaNASASpaceflight – YouTube

Ship 21’s nosecone rolled out ahead of it being stacked atop its barrel section. Booster 9’s thrust puck was delivered, along with a booster methane transfer tube (aka downcomer). Meanwhile, work on Booster 5, the B2.1 test tank, and Mechazilla’s chopstick arms continued. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack (@theJackBeyer).

**** Oct.23: SpaceX Starship fires up & tower arms go on, NASA to select second HLS, SLS Fully Stacked Marcus House

**** Aug.8: How SpaceX Designed A Heat Shield For The Largest Spacecraft Ever BuiltScott Manley

For the first time we saw the fully assembled Starship/SuperHeavy stack assembled on the pad. This is all designed to put Starship, the largest spacecraft ever built, into orbit, but we also got a really good look at a near complete thermal protection system, and that’s critical to bringing the Starship back from orbit safely.

==================

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The latest issue:
Space Suit Opportunities, Inspiration4, FAA & Starship
Vol. 16, No. 6, September 22, 2021

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*** Misc SpaceX news, articles, reports, etc.:

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Continue to Roundup Part 1.

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The X-15 Rocket Plane:
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Space transport roundup: Part 2 – Light orbital lift, Suborbital, News, etc. – Oct.27.2021

A sampling of articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport from late July till today (find previous roundups here). The roundup is split into three postings:

  • Part 1: Orbital launches
  • Part 2: Light orbital lift development, suborbital, space transport articles, news, videos, etc.
  • Part 3: SpaceX Falcon 9, Dragon, and Starship

** USA – Oct.13: Blue Origin flies William Shatner and three others to suborbital space. The second flight of a New Shepard vehicle with people on board went quite well. The crew included actor William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek series, Dr. Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer and co-founder of Planet Labs, Glen de Vries, Vice-Chair, Life Sciences & Healthcare, Dassault Systèmes and co-founder, Medidata, and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s Vice President of Mission & Flight Operations.

Shatner was deeply affected by the experience as indicated by his emotion-laden comments just after emerging from the capsule. Check out this transcript: Speech of William Shatner after flying to space on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin capsule · GitHub. For example,

What you [Bezos] have done… everybody in the world needs to be in this [capsule]. Everybody in the world needs to see [in tears] … it was unbelievable, unbelievable.”

“William Shatner looks out of the New Shepard windows on NS-18.” Credits: Blue Origin

More about the flight:

**** USA – Aug.26: Blue Origin launches an uncrewed New Shepard to suborbital space. This was the seventeenth flight of a New Shepard vehicle, the fourth in 2021, and the eighth for this particular vehicle.

The vehicle carried

“… a NASA lunar landing technology demonstration a second time on the exterior of the booster, 18 commercial payloads inside the crew capsule, 11 of which are NASA-supported, and an art installation on the exterior of the capsule“.

**** Blue Origin developing reusable second stage for New Glenn heavy lift rocket.

Although Blue Origin has not publicly discussed this effort to build a reusable upper stage for the New Glenn rocket, sources said the company’s primary goal is to bring down the overall launch cost of the New Glenn rocket. The vehicle’s large upper stage, which has a 7-meter diameter and two BE-3U engines, is costly. Making New Glenn fully reusable is necessary for Blue Origin to compete with SpaceX’s Starship launch system.

The tank project is one aspect of the reusable upper stage program, and the other aspect is selecting and finalizing a design for the second stage. Both of these projects, operating within Blue Origin’s Advanced Development Programs unit, are making progress.

Project Jarvis encompasses the tank program, which is intended to rapidly prototype a propellant tank to withstand the rigors of multiple launches and re-entries. The company’s engineers are studying the use of stainless steel as a material for these tanks, as SpaceX has chosen to do with its Starship booster and upper stage. Stainless steel is cheaper and better able to withstand atmospheric heating during re-entry, but it’s about five times heavier than composites.

**** Video updates on New Glenn rocket and the BE-4 engine:

**** Other Blue news:

** Virgin Galactic postpones next SpaceShipTwo flight till mid-2022 to provide time for fixes and enhancements to the vehicles. Virgin Galactic Begins Planned Vehicle Enhancement and Modification Period; Unity 23 Test Flight Rescheduled to Follow Completion of This Program – Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic today announced that it will now begin its planned enhancement program for VMS Eve and VSS Unity and will conduct the Unity 23 test flight after this work is complete.

The enhancement program is designed to improve vehicle performance and flight-rate capability for VMS Eve and VSS Unity. In preparation for this work, Virgin Galactic has been performing routine tests and analyses to update its material properties database. This data predicts how materials are expected to perform under certain load and environmental conditions and is used to inform the design and manufacturing enhancements that will support increased flight frequency. One of these recent laboratory-based tests flagged a possible reduction in the strength margins of certain materials used to modify specific joints, and this requires further physical inspection.

As is standard in aerospace test and evaluation practices, Virgin Galactic ships are designed to withstand forces that are substantially higher than those experienced in regular use, providing additional margin and layers of safety. The enhancement program is designed to further increase margins that will enable improved reliability, durability and reduced maintenance requirements when in commercial service. While this new lab test data has had no impact on the vehicles, our test flight protocols have clearly defined strength margins, and further analysis will assess whether any additional work is required to keep them at or above established levels. Given the time required for this effort, the Company has determined the most efficient and expedient path to commercial service is to complete this work now in parallel with the planned enhancement program.

Following the enhancement period, the Company intends to complete the vehicle testing program for VMS Eve and VSS Unity, including the planned research test flight with the Italian Air Force, before starting commercial flights.

**** Virgin Galactic raises ticket prices to $450k for a ride to space. The first commercial flight is now delayed till the second half of 2022 due to a various upgrades for the two SS2 vehicles (“VSS Unity” and “VSS Imagine“) and the WhiteKnightTwo “VMS Eve” carrier aircraft. The modificiations will enable a higher flight rate for the rocketplanes (roughly one month turnaround between flights rather than two months). With the changes, Eve will need major refurbishment every 100 flights rather than every 10.

SpaceNews:

Virgin Galactic will also begin test flights in the second half of 2022 of VSS Imagine, its first SpaceShipIII vehicle that the company unveiled in March. Colglazier said that work on a second SpaceShipIII vehicle, VSS Inspire, is on hold to focus resources on VSS Imagine, VSS Unity and VMS Eve.

The company is betting its long-term sustainability on a future “Delta class” of suborbital spaceplanes, which would be air-launched from a next-generation aircraft that replaces WhiteKnightTwo. It expects those vehicles to fly more frequently and affordably that current vehicles, allowing the company to increase its flight rate and turn toward profitability.

“The key to our ramp up is really leaning heavily into the Delta class as well as getting motherships that will carry all those spaceships,” he said, declining to provide specifics on production plans and schedules for those vehicles. “Delta class and the new mothership program clearly are important new programs for us as a company and we’ll be aligning our energy towards them.”

Here is a new promotional video:

An extraordinary spaceship design fit for an out-of-this-world experience. Learn how Virgin Galactic’s flight technology is revolutionizing space travel.

*** Controversy arises over an anomaly during SpaceShipTwo Unity’s flight back from space in July when Richard Branson was on board.

**** A possible defect flagged by a a third-party supplier was investigated. The company said on Oct.14th that the issue has been resolved.:

… the Company’s recent inquiry into a potential defect in a supplier component announced on September 10, 2021, […] has been successfully resolved. While the supplied component in question was not on either VMS Eve or VSS Unity, in accordance with safety protocols, Virgin Galactic completed detailed inspections and scans which found all components met quality and safety standards and were ready for flight. The enhancement period is now beginning approximately one month later than anticipated, and commercial service is now expected to commence in Q4 2022.

See also:

** Relativity Space prepares for first launch of Terran 1 rocket. Lift off from Cape Canaveral now set for early 2022.

We’re excited to share that Terran 1 Stage 2 just passed cryo pressure proof and hydro mechanical buckling test on our structural test stand. Up next: Stage 1 structural testing!

Here at Relativity, we’re often focused on the future, but we’re taking a beat to recognize our team’s hard work getting to this critical pre-launch phase. In 12 months, we’ve finalized Terran 1’s architecture, developed a brand new engine, upgraded its material, and grew from 150-500+ employees, all while keeping everyone’s safety a top priority.

Terran 1’s demonstration launch is now set for early 2022 from Cape Canaveral LC-16. While we recognize the wins of today, we will continue working at a breakneck speed, and provide updates along the way—as we prepare to launch the world’s first entirely 3D printed rocket.

To stay up-to-date on the latest Terran 1 updates and exclusives, sign up for our newsletter here: https://www.relativityspace.com/updates

Another video update: September 2021: Progress at Cape Canaveral

Other Relativity Space items:

** Masten Space begins development of high altitude reusable Xogdor rocket vehicle. The goal for the vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) vehicle is to start flying by early 2023. The Xogdor will enable more elaborate tests of rocket vehicle landings on Mars and other celestial sites than with Masten’s current low altitude VTVL rockets. Masten Kicks Off Development of Xogdor, our Newest Rocket with Supersonic Speed – Masten Space

Higher altitudes & faster speeds: Xogdor will be our fastest rocket yet! It will test descent and landing technologies at high subsonic speeds up to 200 meters per second (447 miles per hour).

Based on customer needs, Xogdor will also be capable of supersonic speeds to fly to the edge of space on a suborbital trajectory. Why is this important? Supersonic speeds of approximately Mach 3.5 are required to cross the Karman Line (100 km above Earth’s mean sea level). By deploying these speeds on Xogdor, we can test payloads in upper atmosphere and near-space environments with reduced gravity.

Ultimately, the closer we can simulate the lunar and Martian environment, the more accurately we can reduce risks and enable mission success with our test flights.

More payload accommodations: Xogdor will have payload capacity of at least 200 kg with accommodations that include power, data storage, thermal control, and ground telemetry. Xogdor can also provide a fully pressurized or vacuum environment for payloads. Since Earth has a thicker atmosphere than the Moon and Mars, Xogdor will have a layer in the control system that minimizes the effects of the atmosphere, such as lift and drag, from the technologies being tested.

The vehicle will also enable studies of long range point-to-point travel:

With the ability to fly longer ranges, Xogdor also offers more flexibility when it comes to the launch and landing location. That means we don’t necessarily have to launch and land at our Mojave test site. For example, based on a customer needs, we could launch Xogdor at another test site, such as Spaceport America, and land back in Mojave or vice versa. This opens the door for point-to-point payload transportation.

A new video about the company’s many projects:

See also

** Dawn Aerospace begins test flights of of the Mk-11 Aurora Spaceplane. Aurora, which is just 4.8m long and has a 75kg dry weight, currently uses a jet engine rather than the rocket that will power the vehicle to 100 km in altitude. It will carry a payload of 4kg. Dawn Aerospace Mk-II Spaceplane Flight Testing Commences – Five Flights Complete — Dawn Aerospace

Dawn Aerospace, a New Zealand-Dutch space transportation company, has conducted five flights of the company’s Mk-II Aurora suborbital spaceplane. The flights were to assess the airframe and avionics of the vehicle, and were conducted using surrogate jet engines.

The campaign was run from Glentanner Aerodrome in New Zealand’s South Island. Taxi testing commenced in early July and five flights occurred between the 28th and 30th of July, reaching altitudes of 3,400 feet.

Dawn is creating reusable and sustainable space technologies – suborbital and orbital rocket-powered planes – that operate much like a fleet of aircraft, taking off and landing horizontally at airports.

Mk-II is a suborbital plane designed to fly 100 km above the Earth, and aims to be the first vehicle to access space multiple times per day. The vehicle serves as a technology demonstrator for the two-stage-to-orbit-vehicle, the Mk-III. Mk-II will also be used to capture atmospheric data used for weather and climate modelling, and to conduct scientific research and technology demonstrations.

See also Dawn Aerospace runs test flights from Glentanner near Aoraki/Mt Cook – NZ Herald.

** Rocket Factory Ausburg (RFA) pressure tests booster to destruction. The successful test of the steel structure marks an important milestone in the German company’s march towards a debut launch of the RFA One rocket in 2022 from Norway’s Andøya space port. The company recently announced progress with engine tests in Kiruna, Sweden. The booster will use nine full-scale staged combustion engines that burn kerosene and liquid oxygen. A second stage will use one of the same engines. An orbital third stage will place payloads into the desired orbit. The rocket will put up to 1600 kilograms into low earth orbit. The company says the first stage will be recovered and reused but has not given details on how this will be implemented.

More details of RFA rocket development: German startup Rocket Factory Augsburg successfully performs critical tests ahead of 2022 debut – NASASpaceFlight.com

A video of the test:

You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs! With our burst test, we pushed the limits of our first stage and successfully tested several systems and processes. A new first stage is already being built. On we go!

** A June update on Skyrora small lift rocket developer in Scotland:

In this week’s episode we chat with Skyrora’s Business Operations Manager Derek Harris. We discuss how Skyrora have been doing through the UK lockdown, ESA Boost Initiative funding, updates on Skyrora’s 2021 test launch and other exclusive updates! Skyrora designs, manufactures and deploys rockets to clear the way for small satellite manufacturers looking to access Space. Headquartered in Edinburgh, and with facilities across Europe, Skyrora is developing launch vehicle technology to ensure that the life-changing benefits of space are realised here on earth.

** Light-lift rocket company Isar Aerospace of Germany gains payload contracts:

Here is an interview with the CCO of ISAR: The Space Cafe Podcast #036: Stella Guillen: CCO of ISAR Aerospace, Europe’s hottest stock in the launcher segment – SpaceWatch.Global

** ChinaDeep Blue Aerospace vertical-takeoff and landing (VTOL) rocket makes a short hop: Chinese space firm launches and lands small test rocket – SpaceNews

*** Deep Blue Aerospace flies vertical takeoff and landing rocket to 100 meters. Deep Blue Aerospace conducts 100-meter VTVL rocket test – SpaceNews

See also this earlier report: Chinese space firm launches and lands small test rocket – SpaceNews

** Gravitilab Aerospace offers low cost reusable sounding rockets for microgravity research services. The company recently carried out a commercial sounding rocket launch from the Spaceport 1 site in the Outer Hebrides: Gravitilab makes history by launching the first commercial rocket in the UK with the Spaceport 1 team – Gravitilab

A historic UK first has taken place in the Outer Hebrides today (Thursday 26th August) with a unique commercial space launch conducted by a wholly-owned British company and a Scottish spaceport team.

Spaceport 1 joined forces with East Anglian firm Gravitilab Aerospace Services on the sub-orbital launch of flight test vehicle ‘ADA’, named after Ada Lovelace, the 19th century English mathematician who is considered the world’s first computer programmer.

ADA took off from Benbecula marking a successful launch for Spaceport 1, the consortium led by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), which aims to open at Scolpaig, North Uist, in 2022. From this base, commercial sub-orbital space launches will begin to take place from within the UK.

The landmark launch moment represents a key milestone for this unique commercial partnership between Spaceport 1 and Gravitilab, providing proper physical evidence of how companies can work together commercially under the new Government space framework to deliver a successful rocket launch from the UK.

Gravitilab ADA suborbital rocket launches from the Outer Hebrides Spaceport 1 site.

The company has several other suborbital rockets in its fleet. A drop-pod system using a drone is also available:

Louis brings the laboratory to you, so you can undertake your research, de-risk your technology and validate your designs. Whether you’re looking for end-to-end campaign support or a streamlined route to launch, we provide the service so you can focus on the results. With a lead time to launch of one month and a cost from £63 per second of microgravity, we think you’ll agree it’s worth discovering more about this unique member of our fleet.

Payload: up to 6kg
Microgravity duration: 5-10 seconds per drop
Altitude: 600m-2,000m
Available from: Q4 2021

==================

Check out the
The Lurio Report
for news and analysis of key developments in NewSpace

The latest issue:
Space Suit Opportunities, Inspiration4, FAA & Starship
Vol. 16, No. 6, September 22, 2021

Space Frontier Foundation Award for NewSpace Journalism

==================

** Space transport briefs:

Podcasts/Webcasts:

** T+196: Checking In on Small Launch with Firefly Alpha, Astra LV0006 – Main Engine Cut Off

Last week, Firefly made their first flight attempt of Alpha, and Astra launched their latest vehicle, LV0006. Though both ended in failure, it’s a good time to check in on them and other small launchers that will debut soon like, ABL’s RS1 and Relativity’s Terran 1, and how they may all compete with each other.

** Space Policy Edition: Mars via the Nuclear OptionPlanetary Society

Can nuclear propulsion fundamentally transform our ability to send humans to Mars? Bhavya Lal, a policy and nuclear engineering expert now working at NASA, helped write a new report on the topic for the National Academies of Sciences. She joins the show to talk about the advantages of various types of nuclear propulsion, the engineering and policy challenges that face them, and the role of government versus the private sector in developing and deploying transformational technologies.

** Tuesday, Aug.24.2021Stephanie Thomas talked about “Princeton Satellite Systems fusion development program, R&D plus fusion fuels, R&D, the fusion industry overview, fusion reactor performance specs and timelines, funding fusion and much more“.

** Two Scientists Are Building a Real Star Trek ‘Impulse Engine’ – Bloomberg

See also MEGA Progress | Space Studies Institute

** NSS Space Forum – Rocket Summer: The Adventures of Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin GalacticNational Space Society

It’s rocket summer! There has never been a summer like this in the history of commercial space. Virgin Galactic has just made a successful flight with Sir Richard Branson on board as one of the passengers. Blue Origin flew a crew of four to space on July 20 aboard its New Shepard vehicle, with Jeff Bezos as one of the passengers. SpaceX’s Starship may be making its first full-up orbital test flight later this summer. NSS Space Ambassadors Loretta Hall, Bruce Mackenzie, Casey Steadman, and moderator Jim Plaxco provided an overview of these historic events and discussed their larger implications for the development of commercial space.

** Aug.13: Media Telecon: NASA, Boeing to Provide Update on Starliner’s Orbital Flight Test-2NASA Video

** How India Developed World Class Rockets From Humble Beginnings. – Scott Manley

** The Space Show – Sunday, Oct.3.2021Scott Truax talked about his father, Robert (Bob) Truax, and his father’s rocket engineering accomplishments.

** ULA Stops Selling Atlas Rocket LaunchesScott Manley

The Atlas rocket traces its ancestry back to the 1950’s, it’s been at the core of the US space capabilities, carrying historic payloads for NASA, the DoD and commercial partners. This week ULA made it clear that it has no more Atlas rockets for sale as it move to transition to Vulcan which is not reliant on engines from Russia. There are 29 launches left, which is likely more than some ‘new’ rockets, but this decade should see the final flights of Atlas, Delta and Proton – all historic vehicles with their roots in the cold war.

** Status of ISEC – Members Meeting Aug.14.2021International Space Elevator Consortium

===

Continue to Roundup Part 3: SpaceX Falcon 9, Dragon, and Starship.

=== Amazon Ads ===

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Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire

===

Asteroids: How Love, Fear, and Greed
Will Determine Our Future in Space

Space transport roundup: Part 1 – Orbital Launches – Oct.27.2021

A sampling of articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport from late July till today (find previous roundups here). The roundup is split into three postings:

  • Part 1 Orbital launches
  • Part 2: Light orbital lift development, suborbital, space transport articles, news, videos, etc.
  • Part 3 SpaceX Falcon 9, Dragon, and Starship

Note: My link roundups on space transport, weekly space policy, etc have gotten too big and time-consuming.
And reader interest/visit rate has been low.  So I’ve decided to discontinue them after this issue and instead focus
on short posts dealing with specific space policy, transport, public participation, and technology topics.

** USA – Oct.16: ULA Atlas V sends Lucy spacecraft on mission to the Trojan asteroids near Jupiter. NASA, ULA Launch Lucy Mission to ‘Fossils’ of Planet Formation | NASA

Over the next 12 years, Lucy will fly by one main-belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids, making it the agency’s first single spacecraft mission in history to explore so many different asteroids. Lucy will investigate these “fossils” of planetary formation up close during its journey.

About an hour after launch, Lucy separated from the second stage of the ULA Atlas V 401 rocket. Its two massive solar arrays, each nearly 24 feet (7.3 meters) wide, successfully unfurled about 30 minutes later and began charging the spacecraft’s batteries to power its subsystems.

Lucy sent its first signal to Earth from its own antenna to NASA’s Deep Space Network at 6:40 a.m. The spacecraft is now traveling at roughly 67,000 mph (108,000 kph) on a trajectory that will orbit the Sun and bring it back toward Earth in October 2022 for a gravity assist.

Named for the fossilized skeleton of one of our earliest known hominin ancestors, the Lucy mission will allow scientists to explore two swarms of Trojan asteroids that share an orbit around the Sun with Jupiter. Scientific evidence indicates that Trojan asteroids are remnants of the material that formed giant planets. Studying them can reveal previously unknown information about their formation and our solar system’s evolution in the same way the fossilized skeleton of Lucy revolutionized our understanding of human evolution.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Lucy spacecraft aboard is seen in this 2 minute and 30 second exposure photograph as it launches from Space Launch Complex 41, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids. Like the mission’s namesake – the fossilized human ancestor, “Lucy,” whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution – Lucy will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Lucy’s Trojan destinations are trapped near Jupiter’s Lagrange points – gravitationally stable locations in space associated with a planet’s orbit where smaller masses can be trapped. One swarm of Trojans is ahead of the gas giant planet, and another is behind it. The asteroids in Jupiter’s Trojan swarms are as far away from Jupiter as they are from the Sun.

The spacecraft’s first Earth gravity assist in 2022 will accelerate and direct Lucy’s trajectory beyond the orbit of Mars. The spacecraft will then swing back toward Earth for another gravity assist in 2024, which will propel Lucy toward the Donaldjohanson asteroid – located within the solar system’s main asteroid belt – in 2025.

Lucy will then journey toward its first Trojan asteroid encounter in the swarm ahead of Jupiter for a 2027 arrival. After completing its first four targeted flybys, the spacecraft will travel back to Earth for a third gravity boost in 2031, which will catapult it to the trailing swarm of Trojans for a 2033 encounter.

** USA – Sept.27: ULA Atlas V launches Landsat 9 remote sensing satellite for NASA: NASA Launches New Mission to Monitor Earth’s Landscapes | NASA

A joint mission with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Landsat 9 lifted off on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 3E. Norway’s Svalbard satellite-monitoring ground station acquired signals from the spacecraft about 83 minutes after launch. Landsat 9 is performing as expected as it travels to its final orbital altitude of 438 miles (705 kilometers).

… “Today’s successful launch is a major milestone in the nearly 50-year joint partnership between USGS and NASA who, for decades, have partnered to collect valuable scientific information and use that data to shape policy with the utmost scientific integrity,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “As the impacts of the climate crisis intensify in the United States and across the globe, Landsat 9 will provide data and imagery to help make science-based decisions on key issues including water use, wildfire impacts, coral reef degradation, glacier and ice-shelf retreat, and tropical deforestation.”

The first Landsat satellite launched in 1972. Since then, NASA has always kept a Landsat in orbit to collect images of the physical material covering our planet’s surface and changes to land usage. Those images allow researchers to monitor phenomena including agricultural productivity, forest extent and health, water quality, coral reef habitat health, and glacier dynamics. …

See also

** USA – Sept.2: Firefly‘s first launch of Alpha rocket fails due to engine shutdown shortly after liftoff. The rocket nevertheless flew for 145 seconds but then lost control and was destroyed via the flight termination system. The company sees the launch as a sucessful first test flight:

Firefly conducted the first flight test of our Alpha vehicle on September 2, 2021. Although the vehicle did not make it to orbit, the day marked a major advancement for the Firefly team, as we demonstrated that we “arrived” as a company capable of building and launching rockets. We also acquired a wealth of flight data that will greatly enhance the likelihood of Alpha achieving orbit during its second flight. In short, we had a very successful first flight.

More at:

**** Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut tours the Firefly facilities :Tour Firefly Aerospace’s Factory and Test Site With Their CEO, Tom Markusic“:

Join me as I walk through Firefly Aerospace’s Texas test site and factory with their CEO, Tom Markusic. This was a highly detailed tour where we got to learn a ton about their engines, their rockets, and rocket science in general. It was super fun chatting with Tom because he has a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, so I learned a lot!

See also

** USA – Aug.28: Astra Rocket 3.3 launch aborted in flight due to engine failure. One of the five first stage engines failed to ignite properly at liftoff. However, the rocket still managed to remain upright and gain altitude after sliding horizontally away from the launch pad. The rocket was nevertheless doomed by the engine failure and the flight was aborted at the time of the main engine cutoff.

The USAF contracted Astra for this mission and a second one later this year. The company says it expects to launch three times by the end of the year and has a 50 mission backlog. The rockets will lift off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska. So far, the company has yet to put a payload into orbit but came close earlier this year when a propellant mixture problem caused the upper stage to reach just short of orbital velocity.

**** October 12: Astra announced completion of the investigation of the August launch failure:

The issue we encountered was something we hadn’t seen before. Leading up to liftoff, the first stage propellant distribution system provides the rocket with fuel and oxidizer. We designed the system to quickly disconnect and seal when the rocket lifts off. On this launch, propellants leaked from the system, mixed, and became trapped in an enclosed space beneath the interface between the rocket and the launcher. Those propellants were ignited by the engine exhaust, causing an over-pressure event that severed the connection to the electronics that control the fuel pump, shutting down the engine less than one second after liftoff.

This is why the rocket hovered until it could take off with only four engines producing thrust. The vehicle then returned to a normal trajectory, passing through max-Q. After that point, the four remaining engines did not have sufficient power to enable the vehicle to make orbit.

Appropriate fixes have been implemented and October 27th is now set as the date of the next launch.

Other Astra news:

Astra’s rocket for the LV0007 launch.

** USA – Aug.10: Northrop Grumman launches Antares rocket with Cygnus vessel from Wallops Island commercial spaceport. Christened the S.S. Ellison Onizuka, the NG-16 Cygnus vehicle brought 3,723 kilograms of cargo to the ISS when it docked to the station on Thursday, Aug.12. The cargo includes scientific experiment materials, various equipment, food and supplies to support the crew, etc.

** USA/NZ – July 29: Rocket Lab Electron puts US military satellite into orbit in the first launch sinceing an upper stage failure on May. 15th. The smallsat Monolith, a project of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory, was initially going to be on the first Rocket Lab launch from Wallops Island, Virginia. However, delays in getting the launch termination system certified by NASA led to moving the launch to New Zealand.

**** Oct.20: Rocket Lab will attempt to recover the first stage on the next Electron launch. Rocket Lab to Recover Electron Rocket, Introduce Helicopter Operations During Next Launch | Rocket Lab

[Rocket Lab] will attempt a controlled ocean splashdown and recovery of the first stage of an Electron rocket during the company’s next launch in November. The mission will be Rocket Lab’s third ocean recovery of an Electron stage; however, it will be the first time a helicopter will be stationed in the recovery zone around 200 nautical miles offshore to track and visually observe a descending stage in preparation for future aerial capture attempts. The helicopter will not attempt a mid-air capture for this mission but will test communications and tracking to refine the concept of operations (CONOPS) for future Electron aerial capture.

The ‘Love At First Insight’ mission is scheduled to lift-off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand during a 14-day launch window that opens on November 11, 2021 UTC. The mission’s primary objective is to deploy two Earth-observation satellites for global monitoring company BlackSky, with the secondary objective to splash down and recover Electron’s first stage to further validate Rocket Lab’s recovery operations and hardware.

In addition,

The ‘Love At First Insight’ mission will also include new recovery hardware developments to Electron including an advanced parachute to be deployed from the first stage at a higher-altitude, allowing for a slower drift back to Earth to test communications and tracking for future aerial recovery. Electron also features improvements to the first stage heat shield which protects its nine Rutherford engines while they endure up to 2200 °C heat and incredible pressure on the descent back to Earth. A team of Rocket Lab engineers and technicians will again be stationed at sea with their purpose-built Ocean Recovery and Capture Apparatus (ORCA) to retrieve the stage from the ocean and return it to Rocket Lab’s production complex in New Zealand for analysis and inspection.

The ‘Love At First Insight’ mission follows two previous ocean splashdown recovery missions; the ‘Return to Sender’ mission in November 2020, and the ‘Running Out of Toes’ mission in May 2021.

Other Rocket Lab news:

** Russia – Oct.14: Arianespace Soyuz launches 36 more OneWeb satellites. The constellation of Internet service spacecraft has now reached halfway to its final size of.

** S. Korea – Oct.21: The Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV)-I on inaugural launch reaches space but upper stage fails to achieve orbital velocity after premature shutdown. Also referred to as the Nari, the three-stage rocket was launched from Naro Space Center, a few hundred kilometers south of Seoul. The payload was a dummy mock-up of a satellite. Overall, this was a successful test of the first orbital rocket built with South Korean technology.

** Russia – Oct. 4: Soyuz sends three to the ISS including cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and actress Yulia Pereslid  and film producer/director Klim Shipenk. Shkaplerov will join the ISS crew for several months while the actress and director will spend 12 days filming nearly an hour of footage for a film titled, The Challenge. This will be the first feature film shot in space with a professional actor and film maker. Soyuz MS-19 launches film crew to Station amid tightened Russian space reporting regulations – NASASpaceFlight.com

*** Oct.17: Shipenk and Pereslid return to Earth with cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, who had been in space for 191 days

** Russia – Sept.14: Soyuz 2.1b launches 34 OneWeb Internet communication satellites. Soyuz mission launches 34 OneWeb satellites to orbit – NASASpaceFlight.com

** Russia – Sept.9: Russian Soyuz-2.1v launches Kosmos-2551 military reconnaissance satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

** Russia – Aug.21: Arianespace Soyuz 2.1B launches 34 OneWeb satellites from Baiknour Cosmodrome. Total number of OneWeb satellites in orbit reaches 288.

** Europe – Oct.24: Ariane 5 launches two telecommunication satellites from the Guiana Space Centre close to Kourou, French Guiana. The stacked SES-17 and Syracuse-4A spacecraft combined weighed a total of 11.2 tons, a new record mass for Ariane 5 launches into geostationary transfer orbits. The telecom company SES owns the SES-17 satellite and will use it to deliver broadband coverage over the Americas, the Caribbean and over the Atlantic Ocean. Commercial aviation will be a priority market. France’s DGA (Direction générale de l’armement) defence procurement agency arranged the launch of Syracuse-4A, which will provide secure communications for the armed forces of France and will support NATO and European-led operations. The next Ariane 5 launch will send the James Webb Space Telescope into a far orbit out past the Moon.

** Europe – Aug.16: Arianespace Vega rocket launches Pléiades Neo-4 earth observation satellite and four cubesat secondary payloads. The solid-fueled rocket lifted off from the European spaceport in French Guiana (South America).

This mission marked Arianespace’s 7th successful launch of the year and the second with Vega in 2021. It lasted one hour, 44 minutes and 59 seconds during which Pléiades Neo 4 separated on a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 625 km while the four auxiliary payloads separated at 551 kilometers. …

… Today’s mission’s primary purpose was orbiting Pléiades Neo 4, the second of the four satellites of the Pléiades Neo constellation, the first being launched with Vega on April 28, 2021. With 30cm-native-resolution, best-in-class geolocation accuracy and twice-a-day revisit capability, the four Pléiades Neo satellites unlock new possibilities with the ultimate in reactivity. The satellite was fully funded and manufactured by its operator Airbus.

Pléiades Neo 4 was the 133rd Airbus Defence and Space satellite to be launched by Arianespace. There are currently 18 Airbus satellites in Arianespace’s backlog 11 of which will be launched with Vega and Vega C launchers. The last two satellites of the Pléiades Neo constellation will be placed into orbit in 2022 thanks to the next generation launch vehicle, Vega C.

** Europe – July.30: Arianespace launches Ariane V with two satellites for GEO transfer orbit. Ariane Flight VA254 lifted off from the from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) with “Star One D2, built by Maxar Technologies for Brazilian operator Embratel, and EUTELSAT QUANTUM for Eutelsat, developed with Airbus Defence and Space and the European Space Agency (ESA)”. This was the first Ariane V mission in nearly a year due to the slowdown with the pandemic and a grounding to deal with an issue with vibrations in the fairings.

The Star One D2 carries

Ku-, Ka-, C- and X-band transponders, that will enable it to expand broadband coverage to new regions in Central and South America and add an updated X-band payload for government use over the Atlantic region

The QUANTUM is an

With its configurable software-based design, EUTELSAT QUANTUM will be the first universal satellite in the world that can be repeatedly adjusted to the customer’s requirements at any time. It is equipped with electronically steerable receiving antennae and operates in Ku-band with eight independent reconfigurable beams. This configuration allows the operator to reconfigure in-orbit the radio-frequency beams over the coverage zones, providing unprecedented flexibility in data, government and mobility services.

There will be one more Ariane V mission before the launch of the James Webb telescope:

** India – Aug.12: Indian GSLV launch fails due to third stage problem. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk II (GSLV-F10), the most powerful rocket in the Indian stable of launch systems, lifted off with the EOS-03 earth observation satellite from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR in Sriharikota, India. This was was the fourteenth flight of ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and the eighth of the upgraded Mark 2 version. Shortly after separation from the second stage, the cryogenic third stage began to lose attitude control and the engine failed to ignite. The mission had been delayed since March 2020 due to technical issues and the pandemic.

** Japan – Oct.26: JAXA launches QZS-1R navigation satellite on H-IIA rocket built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The launcher lifted off from Tanegashima Island in southwestern Japan. The QZS-1R replaces an aging member of Japan’s current constellation of three satellites in GEO. Eventually, the constellation will reach a size of 7 satellites and will provide an independent home-grown navigation service for the entire country.

==================

Check out the
The Lurio Report
for news and analysis of key developments in NewSpace

The latest issue:
Space Suit Opportunities, Inspiration4, FAA & Starship
Vol. 16, No. 6, September 22, 2021

Space Frontier Foundation Award for NewSpace Journalism

==================

** China – Oct.27: Kuaizhou 1A rocket sends Jilin-1 Gaofen-02F hi-res optical imaging satellite into low earth orbit. The launch was carried out by Expace, a wholly owned subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), the government’s primary space organization. The Kuaizhou 1A is a four stage vehicle with solid fueled motors except for a liquid fueled top stage.

** China – Oct.24: Long March 3B launches space debris mitigation test satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province in southwest China. No details were provided about the capabilities of the satellite or what sort of tests will be made. Presumably, it will rendezvous with an existing debris object, e.g. a derelict spacecraft or upper stage, or it release an object to test purposes. It will then carry out some operation that demonstrates one or more methods for de-orbiting such objects. These sort of techniques could also be used by a military satellite to disable an opponent’s spacecraft so there will be broad international interest in this mission. Interesting that the satellite was sent into geostationary transfer orbit rather than low earth orbit for such a test.

** China – Oct.15: Long March 2F sends 3 new crew members to Tiangong space station. The rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert with the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft carrying with astronauts Zhai Zhigang (commander), Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu will reach China’s new space station. The rendezvous and docking took place about 8 hours later. This is the second crew to go to the station and they are expected to remain there about six months. The first crew stayed for about three months.

** China – Oct.14: China launches Long March 2D launches H-alpha Solar Explorer plus 10 smallsats.

** China – Sept.27: Classified Shiyan-10 satellite launched by Long March 3B. Just two hours after the KZ-1A launch discussed below, the LM-3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province. The satellite was inserted into a geostationary transfer orbit but apparently there followed a malfunction of some sort perhaps with the satellite’s onboard engine. However, the satellite eventually began to use its onboard thrusters to reach its target orbit.

** China – Sept.27: Kuaizhou 1A (KZ-1A) rocket puts Jilin-1 Gaofen-02D remote sensing satellite into polar orbit. The rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia. The number of Jilin-1 Gaofen-2 satellites in orbit now numbers five.

** China – Sept.20: Long March 7 rocket launches Tianzhou-3 cargo vehicle to the Tianhe space station. The rocket lifted off from the Wenchang spaceport in Hainan, an island in southeast of China. The vehicle docked to the station just 7 hours later. The cargo includes propellant to maintain the station’s orbit and various consumables and equipment. The next crew of three are set to launch to the station on October 13th.

** China – Sept.17: Shenzhou-12 crew returns from Tianhe space station. The three taikonauts -Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – rode in the Shenzhou-12 return module as it parachuted onto the Gobi Desert, Inner Mongolia. The crew was the first for the new Tianhe space station, which currently consists of the core module and the Tianzhou-2 supply vehicle. During their 90 day mission, they prepared the core module for operation and for the arrival of additional modules later. The Tianzhou-3 uncrewed supply vehicle is set to launch to the station on Sept. 20th. A second crew is expected to go to the station in early October for a six month stay.

** China – Sept.9: Long March 3C rocket sends Zhongxing-9B direct broadcast satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. The rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province in southwest China,

** China – Sept.7: Gaofen 5-02 Earth-observation satellite launched on Long March 4C rocket. The rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China’s Shanxi province. The satellite, developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, uses hyperspectral imaging to monitor “air, water and environments”.

** China – Aug.24: China launches two rockets on same day. A Long March-3B rocket successfully inserted a new communication technology experiment satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit after liftoff from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province. Later in the day, a Long March-2C carrier rocket put three satellites into low earth orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. Two of these spacecraft are test satellites for a planned Internet services constellation.

** China – Aug.19: Chinese Long March-4B launches two Tianhui-2 earth observation satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The Tianhui 2 series are a quasi-secretive group of Earth observation satellites

** China – Aug.5: Long March 3B launches military communication satellite. This was the fourth Chinese launch in the past 8 days, counting the failure of the iSpace Hyperbola 1 discussed below.

The Zhongxing-2E satellite, operated by China Satellite Communications, launched at 16:30 UTC onboard a Long March 3B/E rocket, or Chang Zheng 3B/E, from Launch Complex 2 (LA-2) of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China. It is the desired launch site of the country´s space program for launches beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).

China Satellite Communications is owned by the Chinese Government, and the line of Zhongxing satellites are used to provide general communication services for the military.

Zhongxing is suspected to be the fourth satellite of the Shentong-2 military communication satellite line. They are operated by the Chinese army and provide communication services for voice and text communications.

** China – Aug.4: Chinese Long March 6 launches 2 technology test satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi Province in northern of the country.

KL-Beta-A and KL-Beta-B were built by the Shanghai Institute for Microsatellite Innovation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and are operated by the German company KLEO-connect. The Beta satellites will help test new interference suppression technology for Ka-band mobile communications satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) and Geostationary orbit (GEO).

** China – Aug.3: Launch of commercial Chinese rocket fails. The Chinese company iSpace suffered the second failure in a row of the solid fueled Hyperbola rocket.

** China – July 29: Chinese Long March 2D launches Tianhui 1-04 earth observation satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern Gobi Desert.

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Continue to Roundup Part 2: Light orbital lift, suborbital, space transport articles, news, videos, etc.

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America’s New Destiny in Space

Geared Up for Launch – Immortal Data & NM Tech

An update from Immortal Data on the partnership with students at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology on a sub-orbital rocket project:

Geared Up for Launch:
Four Years of Space Engineering Takes Flight

August, 30, 2021 (New Mexico) – Innovation works hard behind the scenes, often for years, before its accomplishments see the light of day. This year marks an exciting one for Immortal Data and the students of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, as their industrial partnership is finally set to take off, with all their hard work on board. Since 2017, IDI and NM Tech students have toiled long hours, developing the payload mounting and attaching system for sub-orbital flight, using extremely strict weight and volume guidelines. Their combined efforts have resulted in a payload that not only holds IDI’s data acquisition and logging system “microDAQ and ShipsStore,” but also includes structural health monitoring capabilities.

Structural Health Monitoring is an important technology that improves flight safety and reduces operation cost of future space systems. By monitoring structural conditions in real time, information on changes and damage can be reported immediately to the support team, which allows fast decisions to be made.

According to Dr. Andrei Zagrai,

“We believe that structural health monitoring will be one of key components in re-usability of future space vehicles. We are very excited to demonstrate its feasibility and integration with the blackbox system developed by Immortal Data. It is a great opportunity to test our ideas during sub-orbital space flight.”

This partnership has been a great opportunity for not only Immortal Data, but also for their partners at NMT. Students have been able to participate in a project that will reshape the future of space safety standards.

“This project is also an excellent example of collaboration between the institute and a commercial company as it has both educational and research objectives. We have an undergraduate student team which helped to design and fabricate payload and gained much experience interacting with space engineers at Immortal Data. A graduate student and a former New Mexico Tech graduate were involved in design, implementation and validation of SHM experiment further advancing research and engineering solutions for space vehicles. We hope that our joint work will help to make spaceflight safer and affordable to everyone.”

Through blended endeavors of passion and drive, NM Tech students and IDI have crafted a piece of technology that will impact the future of space engineering for years to come. IDI ShipStore’s patented solution to accumulate, store, and share sensor data in real time, combined with the enclosure designed by NMT to withstand the rigorous stress of a space launch, is a huge achievement for both parties involved. Immortal Data will be delivering the payload this month in anticipation of the sub-orbital flight scheduled to take place in November. They continue to prove their commitment to safety in space and to the space community.About Immortal Data: Immortal Data is an affordable solution to the data collection and recovery demands of the burgeoning and budget-minded private space craft industry.

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America’s New Destiny in Space