Space transport roundup – March.31.2020

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

** SpaceX contracted by NASA for cargo delivery services to lunar orbit station: NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Gateway Logistics Services | NASA

Illustration of the SpaceX Dragon XL as it is deployed from the Falcon Heavy’s second stage in high Earth orbit on its way to the Gateway in lunar orbit. Credits: SpaceX

NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, as the first U.S. commercial provider under the Gateway Logistics Services contract to deliver cargo, experiments and other supplies to the agency’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The award is a significant step forward for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.

At the Moon, NASA and its partners will gain the experience necessary to mount a historic human mission to Mars.

SpaceX will deliver critical pressurized and unpressurized cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway, such as sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface.

“This contract award is another critical piece of our plan to return to the Moon sustainably,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The Gateway is the cornerstone of the long-term Artemis architecture and this deep space commercial cargo capability integrates yet another American industry partner into our plans for human exploration at the Moon in preparation for a future mission to Mars.”

NASA is planning multiple supply missions in which the cargo spacecraft will stay at the Gateway for six to 12 months at a time. These firm-fixed price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts for logistics services guarantee two missions per logistics services provider with a maximum total value of $7 billion across all contracts as additional missions are needed.

Eric Berger talks with two NASA Artemis program managers about the benefits of the Dragon XL services for the Gateway: NASA officials outline plans for building a Lunar Gateway in the mid-2020s | Ars Technica

Ars: It seems to me that Dragon has some capability to really add some volume to Gateway. Can you talk a little bit about its capabilities?

[Mark Wiese, Deep Space Logistics manager]: We went back and looked at some of the lessons learned from Commercial Resupply Services (CRS), and the early missions of CRS really didn’t have the capability within the modules to support research. If you look at SpaceX’s first two or three missions and look at where we are on SpaceX’s 20th mission, the capabilities that Dragon offers for research are significantly improved, and so we took that into account.

[Dan Hartman, Gateway program manager]: We’re going to put payloads on the inside, and we’ve got quite a bit of power allocated from the Dragon XL for that. We’ve got upmass allocated for payloads inside and then we can also fly payloads on the outside with power and tied into their communication systems so we can get some research back down, real time on the way to the Moon, and while attached at the Moon. And then quite honestly, we don’t need the logistics mission up there for six months or a year just to support a lunar mission. But we wanted to take advantage of the extra volume, the extra research accommodations, where we could keep it attached, and we could run science. Dragon also has got the automated rendezvous and docking system that they will be using on their CRS-2 vehicles, very similar to their Crew Dragon. And so, the docking system, you can come and go. We were planning to do that remotely without crew in there. And so, we think we’re set up for a really good platform to conduct research for the long haul.

See also

** SpaceX released the Starship Users Guide V1 (pdf). At 6 pages, it is really just an initial outline of a UG but it is another step in convincing the world that the Starship is going to become a reality in the not so distant future.

See also: SpaceX releases a Payload User’s Guide for its Starship rocket | Ars Technica

Find more SpaceX items below

** Stratolaunch unveils hypersonic vehicle designs. The vehicles will be air launched from the company’s gigantic carrier aircraft, sometimes referred to as Roc.  The initial goal is development of Talon-A

Talon-A is a fully reusable, autonomous, liquid rocket-powered Mach 6-class hypersonic vehicle with a length of 28 feet (8.5 m), wingspan of 11.3 feet (3.4 m), and a launch weight of approximately 6,000 pounds (2,722 Kg). The Talon-A will conduct over 1-minute of hypersonic flight testing, and glide back for an autonomous, horizontal landing on a conventional runway. The vehicle will also be capable of autonomous take-off, under its own power, via a conventional runway.

Talon-A hypersonic text vehicle in flight. Credits: Stratolaunch

Following the death of founder and owner Paul Allen in 2018, the company announced that it was giving up on plans to become an orbital launch provider using rockets launched from beneath the Roc. There was talk the company would even close down after the first successful flight of Roc in April of 2019. Instead Stratolaunch was acquired by Cerberus Capital Management in the summer of 2019 and the company became focused on using Roc for hypersonic research.

Hypersonic propulsion and vehicle design have become top priorities for the US Air Force in response to heightened Chinese and Russian activity in these areas. While the military is focused primarily on hypersonic missiles and projectiles, development of hypersonic transports are also of interest.

Talon Z would be the follow-on hypersonic vehicle to the Talon-A. No details of its design have been revealed yet.

Company management has indicated that several years from now they expect  to return to the orbital space transport challenge with the development of  Black Ice:

Black Ice is a fully reusable space plane that enables advanced on-orbit capabilities and cargo return. Initial designs optimized for cargo launch, with a follow-on variant capable of transporting crew.

Black Ice is a design for a fully reusable plane. Credits: Stratolaunch

More about the company and its hypersonic plans:

** The ULA Atlas V launch of the USAF’s AEHF-6 satellite last week was a success. See the previous roundup for information on the launch and the satellite.

** China prepares crew spacecraft for April test flight: China Readies New Spaceship for April Liftoff – Leonard David

China’s prototype of a new-generation piloted spaceship is scheduled to launch with no crew in mid to late April on the maiden flight of the Long March-5B carrier rocket, a variant of the Long March-5.

**** China’s new crewed spacecraft is getting ready for launch – China Central Television (CCTV)

China’s new-generation crewed spacecraft is being prepared for launch at the Wenchang Space Launch Center, Hainan Province, China. Compared with the Shenzhou spacecraft, it is larger, designed to be reusable and it can carry both astronauts and cargo. The spacecraft (CMS) is scheduled to be launched in April. Yang Qing, chief designer of CMS, China Academy of Space Technology, explains the measures taken to ensure the work quality.

The docking hatch for China’s crew vehicle appears to be compatible with the ISS standard: China’s new crew spacecraft looks like it could dock with the International Space Station |

** Watching a big rocket firing up close:

** Rocket briefs:


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

The latest issue:
Starship Factory, Axiom’s Modules, Starliner Revelations
Vol. 15, No. 2, March 28, 2020

Space Frontier Foundation Award for NewSpace Journalism


** SpaceX:

** A Merlin engine on the first stage booster shut down prematurely during the latest Starlink launch. The two US agencies that rely on SpaceX rockets are involved in the company’s investigation into what happened with the booster, which was on its 5th flight:  NASA, U.S. military reviewing SpaceX engine malfunction – Spaceflight Now

** Astronaut selection for the first operational Crew Dragon mission has been announced: NASA Adds Shannon Walker to First Operational Crewed SpaceX Mission | NASA

NASA has assigned astronaut Shannon Walker to the first operational crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.

Walker will join NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover Jr., as well as Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), for a six-month expedition aboard the unique space laboratory.

This mission will be the first in a series of regular, rotational flights to the station following NASA’s certification of the new crewed system following completion and validation of SpaceX’s test flight with astronauts, known as Demo-2. This test is expected to take place in mid-to-late May as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Pending the successful Demo-2 test, Walker, Glover, Hopkins, and Noguchi will launch aboard Crew Dragon on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That launch is targeted for later this year.

** The Demo-2 astronauts are busy with simulations of the mission, which could happen as early as mid-May: NASA, SpaceX Simulate Upcoming Crew Mission with Astronauts | NASA

Joint teams from NASA and SpaceX continue making progress on the first flight test with astronauts to the International Space Station by completing a series of mission simulations from launch to landing. The mission, known as Demo-2, is a close mirror of the company’s uncrewed flight test to station in March 2019, but this time with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft launching atop a Falcon 9 rocket as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

Over the last several months, key members of flight control teams working from NASA’s Johnson and Kennedy Space Centers and SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, simulated different phases of the upcoming mission while the Demo-2 astronaut crew practiced procedures from inside a realistic simulator of Crew Dragon.

“The simulations were a great opportunity to practice procedures and to coordinate decision-making for the mission management team, especially with respect to weather,” said Michael Hess, manager of Operations Integration for CCP. “Simulation supervisors do a great job at picking cases that really make the team think and discuss.”

Recent simulations saw teams execute timelines from hatch closure to undocking with the space station — as well as a free flight in preparation for re-entry and splashdown. In March, the control teams and crew ran through a simulated mission starting at prelaunch and continuing through ascent and eventual rendezvous with the station.

This recent sim makes the excitement all the more tangible, especially for the greater NASA team.

“On Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20, SpaceX teams in Firing Room 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the company’s Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, along with NASA flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, executed a full simulation of launch and docking of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley (front) participating in SpaceX’s flight simulator. ” Credits: SpaceX

**** Starship

**** The SN3 vehicle was moved to the launch pad site over the weekend. Pressure tests of the propellant tanks and firings of the Raptor engines are expected next week according to these road closures: Space X – Cameron County. Check out the series of videos below showing the recent rapid assembly of the SN3 and the building of the components for SN4.

More about the SN3 plan: SpaceX Preparing Starship SN3 for Ground and Flight Testing –

**** Interesting new features in the latest Starship prototype such as an improved design for the legs: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s latest Starship photos reveal surprise landing legs – Teslarati

****** SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN3 Pre-rollout, Launch Site preps, SN4 preps – Mar.27.2020 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship SN3 prepares for its trip to the launch pad – which is also completing preparations ahead of SN3 testing – while parts of Starship SN4 wait in the wings. Videos and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** Starship SN3 Moves To Launch Pad Timelapse – Mar.29.2020 – LabPadre – YouTube

****** Starship SN3 Lifted to Test Stand at SpaceX Boca Chica Sunday – March 29 – SPadre – YouTube

****** SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN3 prepares for proof testing – Mar.30.2020 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship SN3 is being prepared for proof testing with LN2 at the Boca Chica launch site. A successful test will pave the way for a Static Fire (no sooner than) later in the week. Video and Photos by Mary (@BocaChicaGal) for NSF. Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer)

****** Some shots of SN3 from Elon:

** Webcast rocket reports:

**** NSF Live: SpaceX Starship SN3 preps for testing, NASA selects Dragon XL, and moreNASASpaceflight – YouTube

NSF Live is NASASpaceflight’s new live show which will stream weekly at 5 pm Eastern. Each week we will rotate through various hosts and special guests. Topics for this week’s show:
– Starship SN3 is preparing for testing in Boca Chica
– Launch industry disruption
– Atlas V launches AEHF-6
– NASA, SpaceX reveal plans for Dragon XL
– Astra has an anomaly
– Crew Dragon parachute testing update
Episode #1 is hosted by John Galloway (Kerbal Space Academy), Chris Gebhardt (Assistant Managing Editor at, and Thomas Burghardt (Writer

**** SpaceX Starship SN3 Ready for Testing, SpaceX Dragon XL announced

Download NordLocker Free at Use the coupon code “marcushouse” to get 32% off the 1 year premium plan. Another jam-packed week of news. The Starship SN3 is ready for testing and a huge news today with SpaceX Dragon XL announced. SpaceX development of the SN3 Starship is still steaming ahead with the main body now stacked and more news dropping every day. The lost booster from the Starlink #5 missions is getting a little more interesting now with NASA now involved in the investigation. We’re hoping that isn’t going to cause any new delays with the upcoming Crew Dragon mission. Also, some tough news for fans of Bigelow space and Oneweb among other things, so yes, it has been an interesting week. I’ve got to say though, the awesome news breaking with NASA announcing that SpaceX will be delivering cargo to the Lunar gateway using the mystery Dragon XL on a Falcon Heavy is really exciting.

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The Space Show this week – Mar.30.2020

The guests and topics of discussion on The Space Show this week:

1. Monday, March 30, 2020; 7 pm PDT (9 pm CDT, 10 pm EDT: No special programming.

2. Tuesday, March 31, 2020; 7 pm PDT (9 pm CDT, 10 pm EDT): Author Rod Pyle will talk about his latest commercial space work and more.

3. Wednesday, April 1, 2020: Hotel Mars TBA pre-recorded. See upcoming show menu on the home page for program details.

4. Thursday, April 2, 2020; 7-8:30 pm PDT (9-10:30 pm CDT, 10-11:30 pm EDT): No special programming.

5. Friday, April 3, 2020; 9:30-11 am PDT (11:30 am-1 pm CDT, 12:30-2 pm EDT): We welcome back Dr. David Kipping to discuss his work on the Earth as a telescope concept

6. Sunday, April 5, 2020; 12-1:30 pm PDT (3-4:30 pm EDT, 2-3:30 pm CDT): We welcome back Dennis Wingo to talk about his recent SLS history post and more.

Some recent shows:

** Sun, 03/29/2020 Dr. Paul Jaffe of the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) discussed space solar power.

** Fri, 03/27/2020Dr. Tina Highfill discussed “the BEA satellite economic analysis of the space industry”.

** Tue, 03/24/2020Robert Zimmerman talked about “multiple topics including SpaceX, SLS, COVID19 and more”.

** See also:
* The Space Show Archives
* The Space Show Newsletter
* The Space Show Shop

The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.

The Space Show - David Livingston
The Space Show – David Livingston

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Space policy roundup – Mar.30.2020

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):


** Equinox 2020 Space Policy and Politics Briefing

Couldn’t join us for the live Planetary Society member webcast? Here’s the complete March 2020 briefing, featuring Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye, Chief Advocate and Senior Space Policy Advisor Casey Dreier, Chief of Washington Operations Brendan Curry, and Planetary Radio host Mat Kaplan.

** Gordon Roesler – Robots In Space – Cold Star Project S02E25

Dr. Gordon Roesler, past DARPA Program Manager and founder of Robots In Space, is on the Cold Star Project. With host Jason Kanigan of Cold Star Tech, Dr. Roesler discusses the coming capabilities and uses of robotic technologies in space. Servicing satellites, recovering dead spacecraft and potentially recycling them, allowing in-orbit construction rather than having to expensively ship everything up are just some of the ways robots in space will have an impact on the industry. Robots In Space website:

** The Space Show – Fri, 03/27/2020Dr. Tina Highfill discussed “the BEA satellite economic analysis of the space industry”.

** The Space Show – Tue, 03/24/2020Robert Zimmerman discussed “multiple topics including SpaceX, SLS, COVID19 and more”.

** March 20, 2020 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast | Behind The Black

** The Rise Of The Space Age Millennials – Are We There Yet – Space – 90.7 WMFE

There’s a new generation leading the charge when it comes to space exploration — millennials. These 20 and 30 year olds are entering the workforce and academia, driving innovation and pushing humanity farther into the solar system. So what’s motivating these millennials? And what’s different from the group of folks that came before them? We’ll chat with space policy analyst and author Laura Forczyk about her new book “Rise of the Space Age Millennials.

** Artemis Update: A Year of Progress on Returning to the Moon – NASA

Our Artemis program will return U.S. astronauts to the surface of the Moon, a goal announced by Vice President Mike Pence on March 26, 2019. Take a look at all we’ve accomplished since then, from testing our Orion spacecraft and building our Space Launch System rocket to graduating a new Artemis Generation class of astronauts and creating partnerships with private industry.

** March 25, 2020 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast | Behind The Black


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Videos: “Space to Ground” ISS report – Mar.27.2020

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

** Down To Earth – Shining Oasis

In this episode of “Down to Earth – Shining Oasis,” David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency recalls the first time he caught a glimpse of the Earth from the Soyuz capsule on his way to the space station. #SpaceStation20th

** Expedition 63 Crew Activities – March 23, 2020

Expedition 63 Space Station Crew Conducts Traditional Ceremonies in Star City, Russia The International Space Station’s Expedition 63 crew, Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos and Chris Cassidy of NASA and their backups, Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Babkin of Roscosmos and Steve Bowen of NASA, visited the Gagarin Museum at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia March 23 after laying flowers at the statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to fly in space. The footage also includes questions posed to Cassidy on the eve of the crew’s departure for their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan from where they will launch on April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft for a six-month mission on the International Space Station.

** NASA Television Video File – Expedition 63 Crew Departure for Launch Site – March 24, 2020

Expedition 63 Space Station Crew Departs for Kazakh Launch Site The International Space Station’s Expedition 63 crew Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, Flight Engineers Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos and Chris Cassidy of NASA and their backups, Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Babkin of Roscosmos and Steve Bowen of NASA, participated in traditional prelaunch ceremonies at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, outside Moscow on March 24. Afterward, they departed for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to complete their training for the launch of Ivanishin, Vagner and Cassidy on April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft for a six-month mission on the International Space Station.

** Astronaut Anne McClain’s Tips for Living in Close Quarters

NASA astronaut Anne McClain spent 204 days living on the International Space Station and shares her tips for living in close quarters with only a few other people. She shares what human behaviors create a healthy culture for living and working remotely in small groups. Read her advice at:… Learn more about how NASA helps prepare astronauts for the social isolation they will experience:…

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“Xtronaut 2.0: The game of solar system exploration” – Xplore sponsors Kickstarter campaign

An announcement from Xtronaut:

Xplore Sponsors Xtronaut’s Kickstarter Campaign,
Donates Space Games to The Boeing Academy
for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight

Xplore’s Xcraft™ Now Featured in
XTRONAUT 2.0: The Game of Solar System Exploration,
the award-winning space-themed board game

Xplore Xcraft™ playing card in Xtronaut 2.0 Game

Xtronaut 2.0, a fun, multi-player game for players ages eight and up, teaches the real-world challenges of solar system exploration and educates players on how to plan missions to deep space. Xplore’s high-performance spacecraft, the Xcraft™, is a new feature in Xtronaut 2.0, which mirrors real-life space missions. Players can plan exploration missions and send the Xcraft™ to the Moon, Mars, Venus, and asteroids, including Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission. Spacecraft in the game can launch on SpaceX, ULA, and NASA-SLS rockets. Planetary scientist Dr. Dante Lauretta created Xtronaut with CEO Michael Lyon. Lauretta is a University of Arizona Professor and Principal Investigator for OSIRIS-REx. Lyon, while at Space Adventures, helped orchestrate the private astronaut flights for Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth to the International Space Station.

Xplore founder and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Rich said,

“Xtronaut 2.0 provides valuable education about space missions, builds strategic skills, and inspires players to pursue STEM careers. We are proud to have the Xcraft™ featured in Xtronaut 2.0 and are delighted that our sponsorship enables us to give 120 games to the youth organization of our choice. Xplore selected The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight to receive our gift to support their mission to enhance educational opportunities for young people, particularly students of color, females, and those from low income families and communities to access and pursue STEM pathways.”

Reba Gilman, Vice President of Education for The Museum of Flight said,

“The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight is pleased to accept Xplore’s generous gift of 120 Xtronaut 2.0 games, and we look forward to distributing them among our students. Xplore aligns well with our goal of promoting STEM opportunities. They are a creative company that thinks out-of-the box in terms of how their commercial missions to space will impact the lives of others. While scientists, universities, national space agencies, civilian space agencies, national security space agencies and others will fly with them, our students can also benefit from their missions to space.” She added, “We appreciate the leadership of Xplore’s female founder, Lisa Rich, and are thankful Xplore is giving us this positive stay-at-home activity that students will enjoy during these uncertain times.”

Dr. Dante Lauretta said:

“We are excited to include Xplore as a real-world example of next-generation missions to space. Our original game allows players to fly heritage spacecraft. With Xtronaut 2.0, we have the added feature of flying the Xcraft™ as a small payload with enhanced capability for missions to our solar system. Our players will love this feature as it adds another layer of real-world authenticity to the game.” He added, “We are pleased that our game will support The Museum of Flight. Xtronaut 2.0 is a constructive way for students enrolled in The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning’s programs to expand their knowledge of the aerospace industry and encourage them to be a part of it.”

Xtronaut 2.0 is currently available on Kickstarter. To obtain a copy or sponsor games to give to the youth organization of your choice, visit:

More cards in the Xtronaut game.

About Xplore: Xplore is a Seattle-based commercial deep space company offering Space as a ServiceTM. Xplore provides hosted payloads, communication relay services and exclusive datasets to its customers via a fleet of networked multi-mission spacecraft.

The mission of Xplore is to expand robotic exploration via commercial Xpeditions™ at and beyond Earth, to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange Points and near-Earth asteroids in the inner solar system. Xplore provides hosted payload services for scientific instruments and technology demonstrations for national space agencies, national security agencies, sovereign space agencies and universities. Visit:

About Xtronaut Enterprises, Inc.: Dante Lauretta and Michael Lyon founded Xtronaut Enterprises to develop innovative educational content associated with space exploration. Dr. Lauretta has spent over 16 years developing and leading the OSIRIS-REx mission. Xtronaut also produces the award-winning game Constellations: The Game of Stargazing and the Night Sky and Downlink: The Game of Planetary Discovery. Visit:



Here is an interview with Xtronaut CEO Michael Lyon by Jason Kanigan of the Cold Star Project:

Michael Lyon is an attorney, startup accelerator mentor and space tourism pioneer. I’ve interviewed him for the full format Cold Star Project show (link below), and today he’s back to share Xtronaut 2.0. It’s a fun and educational space board game he has co-created that has already achieved 2X its funding target on Kickstarter. Xtronaut 2.0 was co-created by Dante Lauretta of Osiris-REx fame. Bill Nye and the Planetary Society are also involved. I want you to have the chance to hear about it, and maybe pick up some of the cool swag that comes along with backing the idea. Check out the Kickstarter for Xtronaut 2.0 here:

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