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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Videos: “Space to Ground” ISS report – Nov.29.2019

Here is the latest episode in NASA’s Space to Ground weekly report on activities related to the International Space Station:

** How NASA will bake in space for the first time and why that’s a BIG deal!

On November 2nd, 2019, Northrop Grumman launched a Cygnus Cargo Ship on a resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. On board was just over 3,700 kg of science experiments, vehicle hardware, crew supplies, and other important space stuff. But included on this flight was a space first. An oven. And not just any oven, but a custom zero g oven developed by Nanoracks, a leading provider of commercial access to space, that will be used to bake the first food in space – the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie. So today, I thought we should do a history of space food, figure out why we haven’t ever baked anything in space before, and learn from the experts on how DoubleTree by Hilton, the sponsor of this video, will actually bake their cookies on the International Space Station. Article version here –…

** Expedition 61 Thanksgiving Message

Right now, half of the crew members on board the International Space Station are American astronauts who are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, and they have a message for us. Check in with NASA’s Christina Koch, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan, to learn more about what the holiday means to them and get a look at what Thanksgiving in space will be like in 2019.

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Carnival of Space #639 – Urban Astronomer

Urban Astronomer hosts the latest Carnival of Space.

“The first global geologic map of Titan is based on radar and visible-light images from NASA’s Cassini mission, which orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. Labels point to several of the named surface features. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU [Click to enlarge]“. Via Universe Today and Carnival of Space

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 policy roundup – Nov.25.2019

A sampling of links to recent space policy, politics, and government (US and international) related space news and resource items that I found of interest (find previous space policy roundups here):


** Constellations, a New Space and Satellite Innovation Podcast: 64 – The Evolving Geospatial Industry, Temporal Resolution and the Evolution of Very High Resolution Satellites

On this episode of Constellations, the podcast from Kratos, we will discuss how the advancements in earth observation satellites have impacted the geospatial industry.  We will talk about temporal resolution and cadence and explore the exciting new and unique technologies that the new generation of companies is developing. Plus, learn how very high resolution satellites have changed over the years.

Listen to Chris Tucker, Principal of Yale House Ventures talk about his experience in the geospatial industry, advancements in remote sensor systems and his experience as a member of the board of directors of the Open Geospatial Consortium and the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.

** The Space Show – Fri, 11/22/2019Dr. Kirby Runyon talked about “planetary nomenclature, taxonomy, the IAU and Pluto, the NASA-APL Interstellar Probe Concept Mission and much more”.

** The Space Show – Sun, 11/24/2019Dr. David Livingston led an open lines discussion with listeners.

We started out talking about TSS Annual Fundraising Campaign, my telling some fundraising and Space Show audience stories which I very much appreciated plus I asked for support for this year’s campaign to make us strong for 2020. We had several calleers on different topics from experimenting with people being put in suspended animation and attempt to apply the medical experiments to space travel. There was also a call expressing concern about all of the Elon Musk businesses and how that might impact SpaceX. The final call addressed Mach Principle research, the Woodward work on the same subject and rebooting a civilization should it be destroyed. In addition to the calls we had several emails on different topics.

** November 22, 2019 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast | Behind The Black


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