A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport (find previous roundups here):
** Scrubs and delays continue to plague ULA and SpaceX launch plans. The ULA Delta IV Heavy launch of the NROL-44 spysat has been trying to lift off since August but various ground system and weather problems have kept it grounded. Weather has been the primary factor in keeping three SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets from flying two StarLink missions and one USAF GPS
[ Update: The Delta IV Heavy launch of the NROL-44 classified payload was aborted again late Wednesday. In this case, the abort happened at 7 seconds before liftoff. (An abort on August 29th happened 3 seconds before scheduled liftoff.) Commentators on the NSF webcast said there will be a delay of at least a week to prepare for the next attempt: ULA suffers another abort during Delta IV Heavy’s attempt to launch NROL-44 – NASASpaceFlight.com ]
As of Wednesday, Sept.30th, the current Florida launch planning shows:
- NROL-44 Delta IV Heavy – 11:54 pm EDT – Sept. 30th (354 GMT on 1st)
- Starlink-12 Falcon 9, Pad 39A KSC -9:17 am EDT (1317 GMT) – Oct. 1st
- GPS 3 SV04 Falcon 9, SLC-40 Cape Canaveral 9:43-9:58 p.m. EDT on 2nd ( 0143-0158 GMT on 3rd) – Oct. 2nd
- Starlink-13 Falcon 9, SLC-40 Cape Canaveral – In October but no date announced yet.
** Northrop Grumman Antares rocket set to launch Cynus cargo vehicle to the ISS Thursday evening at 9:38 pm EDT ( 0138 GMT, Oct. 2) from Wallops Island”s commercial spaceport: Prelaunch Briefing for Northrup Grumman’s 14th Cargo Resupply Mission to Space Station
During a Sept. 28 news briefing at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, in Virginia, the agency’s commercial partner, Northrop Grumman and others discussed the prelaunch status of the company’s 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. On Oct. 1, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft is targeted to launch aboard an Antares rocket from Wallops. The Cygnus will carry nearly 8,000 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the station.
** A Russian Soyuz 2.1b sent 3 comm-sats and 18 smallsats into orbit:
- Russia launches 3 Gonets communication satellites, 18 international smallsats – NASASpaceFlight.com
- Soyuz launches with 22 satellites – Spaceflight Now
** China launches two environmental monitoring/disaster management satellites on a Long March-4B from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Sunday. There was no prior public announcement of the launch.
- China successfully launches 2 environmental monitoring satellites – CGTN
- China sends two environmental monitoring satellites into space – Xinhua
- Surprise Chinese launch lofts Huanjing duo – NASASpaceFlight.com
- Secretive Chinese launch sends two remote sensing satellites into orbit – SpaceNews
The new HJ-2A and HJ-2B satellites will replace the previous generation of environmental monitoring satellites HJ-1A and HJ-1B, to provide services concerning environmental protection, natural resources, water conservancy, agriculture and forestry, according to the satellite developer China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).
The HJ-2A and HJ-2B are 16-meter optical satellites with high mobility, precision control and stability, as well as strong load adaptability and long lifespans.
The satellites can provide 16-meter multispectral, 48-meter hyperspectral and infrared image data.
They will support the monitoring of natural disasters and land utilization, regulation and protection of water resources, dynamic monitoring of crop areas and assessment of yield, as well as quake emergency rescue.
** Germany’s HyImpulse launch company tests hybrid motor: First hot fire testing of the 75kN HyImpulse hybrid rocket motor –
At midday of Tuesday 15 September, the first firing of the HyImpulse 75kN hybrid rocket motor was a full success! It was performed at the world class DLR Lampoldshausen testing facility. This is the biggest hybrid rocket motor ever built and tested in Europe. This marks an important milestone in accomplishing our plan for a suborbital flight in early 2021 and the first flight of the three stage HyImpulse launcher SL1 by the end of 2022. HyImpulse is the first German Mini -Launcher startup to have its full-size flight weight motor developed, built and hot fire tested on a test bench. With the NewSpace Launch sector heating up, this important milestone immensely advances our international position in this area. The test confirms that the rocket propellants based on our proprietary Paraffin /LOX formulation achieve the same high performance as liquid hydrocarbon-based fuels with a much-simplified propulsion system and at a fraction of the cost.
** Rocket Factory Augsburg plans for their RFA One Launcher to lift off from Norway in 2022: Rocket Factory Augsburg Signs Agreement with Andøya Space for maiden launch – Andøya Space Center
Andøya Space is developing the new launch complex on Andøya island, 35 km south of their existing sub-orbital launch site. This new site will provide operators of vehicles in the 1.5t payload class with independent integration facilities and access to two launch pads with necessary support infrastructure.
Rocket Factory, a start-up backed by the German satellite manufacturer OHB as a strategic investor and Munich-based venture capital firm Apollo Capital Partners, currently is developing a launcher system called RFA ONE for small satellites with a payload performance of up to 1.500kg to low earth orbit (LEO). The first launch is scheduled for 2022. The company recently qualified the upper stage tank system during cryogenic tests and is currently preparing hot-fire tests of the main engine in Esrange, Sweden.
“We are convinced that Rocket Factory is one of the most progressive SSLV companies in Europe. Having them commit to Andøya Space as a partner is of great significance to us. We are developing an efficient multi-user launch site in Norway, and Rocket Factory has the technical capabilities, the same innovative culture, and the enthusiastic team we need in a partner to help us take the spaceport initiative forward. We look forward to supporting them in their missions to polar- and sun synchronous orbits.”, said Odd Roger Enoksen, CEO and President of Andøya Space.
RFA is at the forefront of the global new-space launch vehicle development, with its state-of-the-art staged-combustion engine technology. This high-performance engine design, coupled to lowest-possible-cost production techniques, is essentially new to Europe, and through the support of OHB, RFA has managed to acquire key technologies and key talent that will propel the business case of the RFA One launch vehicle to dominate the market on a global scale. Recent firing tests have demonstrated that RFA is on a winning path to establish Europe’s most efficient and powerful rocket engine technology. Recently, RFA won the first round of the micro-launcher competition of the German Space Agency DLR, which granted RFA a letter of support to submit a proposal to ESA’s Boost! programme.
** Masten Terrestrial Rocket Testbed Introduction: Masten Space Systems highlights their vertical takeoff and landing rocket flight services.
** India’s Skyroot Aerospace shows off new cryogenic methane-fueled engine:
Today, on the occasion of 100th birth anniversary of renowned Indian Rocket Scientist- Dr.Satish Dhawan:
Unveiling our fully Cryogenic Rocket Engine ‘Dhawan-1’:
1. 100% 3D Printed
2. 100% Cryo Propellants – LNG/LoX
3. 100% Made in India
Demonstrates Vikram-2 upper stage tech. pic.twitter.com/yzFwG68tei
— Skyroot Aerospace (@SkyrootA) September 25, 2020
The company is aiming to launch the first Vikram-1 rocket, which will use solid fueled motors in all stages, in December 2021. The cryogenic engine will be used for the upper stage of the Vikram-2 rocket.
More about Skyroot at:
- Hyderabad-based Skyroot unveils ‘Dhawan-I’ rocket engine – TelanganaToday.com
- Startup Skyroot Aerospace unveils India’s first privately developed Cryogenic Rocket engine – DNAIndia.com
While the company has successfully tested the upper-most stage engine of its first rocket Vikram-I, the initial stage engines of Vikram-I are being manufactured. If all goes well, the company is looking forward to a maiden launch of Vikram-I by December 2021, with the support and guidance of the Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO). The cryogenic engine won’t see action in Vikram-I and is meant for their bigger rocket Vikram-II.
In terms of payload capacity, Vikram I is meant to lift 225 kg to 500 km Sun Synchronous Polar Orbit(SSPO) and 315 kg to 45º inclination 500 km Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Vikram II is designed for 410 kg to 500 km SSPO and 520 kg to 45º inclination 500km LEO. In the case of Vikram III, we are looking at 580 kg to 500 km SSPO and 720 kg to 45º inclination 500 km LEO.
** bluShift Aerospace will test bio-fuel in low altitude rocket flight at a site in Maine: Brunswick aerospace company sets date for rocket launch – Portland Press Herald
Years of planning will be on the line Oct. 21 with the launch of bluShift’s 20-foot test rocket, the Stardust 1.0. The company hopes to launch the 540-pound Stardust 4,500 feet into the air, about twice as high as the world’s tallest skyscraper, before landing safely back onto the ground at the Loring Commerce Centre, formerly known as the Loring Air Force Base. The trip will use 10 pounds of bluShift’s trademark fuel.
The rocket will be airborne for roughly 58 seconds, a tiny span of time compared with the years of work it took for engineers to get to this point. But Deri and his team understand the gravity of this moment.
“This launch is the culmination of six years of research and development by bluShift to develop a type of chemical rocket engine that is perhaps less understood than more common technologies” he says, hoping to demonstrate the functionality of a “bio-derived, carbon-neutral, high-performing and even less expensive than its liquid petroleum counterpart.”
** Scott Manley describes the design and operation of the Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters: The Amazing Engineering Behind Solid Rocket Boosters
The solid rocket motors on the space shuttle accounted for the majority of the launch mass and launch thrust. They’re the most powerful rocket thrusters ever flown, at least until the 5 segment versions take flight with SLS in the next year or so. I’ve often described solid rocket motors as being relatively simple compared to the complex plumbing, pumps and turbines of liquid rocket motors. However there’s still a huge amount of critical engineering and science that goes into these boosters. The design of the boosters were also partly responsible for the accident that destroyed Challenger during launch.
** And Manley highlights the spaceship capabilities of the ISS: How the Space Station Moves In Orbit Like A Spaceship
Many people don’t realise that the International Space Station is also a space ship, able to maneuver in space as required by mission operations. It has thrusters and control moment gyros to control its orientation and adjust its orbit.
I could have explaind this with CGI, I could have used KSP Instead I decided to use my LEGO model of the ISS as a prop: The LEGO ISS is available on Amazon and other online retailers. https://amzn.to/3kV4aqC
- Pulsed Plasma Rocket | NextBigFuture.com
- China’s waffle-like grid fin accurately guides fallen rocket pieces to earth – People’s Daily Online
- Blasting The Air In Front Of Hypersonic Vehicles With Lasers Could Unlock Unprecedented Speeds – TheDrive.com
- First flight of Russia’s Krylo-SV retrievable rocket stage scheduled for late 2021 – TASS
- AgniKul Cosmos partners with Alaska Aerospace to test launch vehicle from Pacific Spaceport Complex – cnbctv18.com – Agnikul Cosmos of India plans first launch from Alaska in 2022.
Check out the
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for news and analysis of key developments in NewSpace
The latest issue:
Strides and Views, Rocket Lab, Bernard Kutter, RIP
Vol. 15, No. 6, September 18, 2020
Space Frontier Foundation Award for NewSpace Journalism
** Launch of first operational SpaceX Commercial Crew mission now set for October 31st:
- NASA and SpaceX Teams Prepare for Crew-1 Mission – Commercial Crew Program/NASA
- NASA, SpaceX to Launch First Commercial Crew Rotation Mission to International Space Station – Commercial Crew Program/NASA
- Sept. 29 Briefings to Highlight NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 Mission – Commercial Crew Program/NASA
- NASA and SpaceX wrapping up certification of Crew Dragon – SpaceNews
- First operational Crew Dragon launch slips to Halloween – Spaceflight Now
Some of the delay from the original late August target date was due to an issue with the Crew Dragon heat shield showing more erosion than expected around the areas where the service stage bolts to the capsule. The problem had to be diagnosed, and then a fix designed, implemented and tested. There will also be an adjustment to the timing of the drogue chute deployment, which happened a bit later than desired.
Final certification of the Crew Dragon/Falcon 9 for operational crew missions will be presented about a week before the launch.
Between now and the end of 2021, SpaceX and NASA expect to launch seven Dragon missions – three crew and four cargo. The Cargo Dragon vehicles will now be reconfigured versions of the Crew vehicles. There will be times when both types of Dragon vehicles (Crew and Cargo) are docked to the station at the same time. SpaceX has busy manifest of Dragon missions – SpaceNews
The CRS-21 mission will also mark the first time two Dragon spacecraft are in space at the same time. That mission will remain docked to the station for 35 days before returning to Earth. After that, the Crew-2 astronauts will board the Crew Dragon and relocate it from its original docking port, called Node 2 Forward, to the neighboring Node 2 Zenith port. That would free up the Node 2 Forward port, which offers a more straightforward approach to the station, for an uncrewed Boeing CST-100 Starliner test flight tentatively scheduled for late this year.
Flying seven Dragon missions in 14 months will require some degree of spacecraft reuse, Reed said. “A number of them are reused flights, and a handful of them are new,” he said, but didn’t immediately know how many of the missions will use previously flown spacecraft. NASA and SpaceX previously said they would refurbish the Dragon flown on the Demo-2 test flight this summer for the Crew-2 mission. Both Crew-1 and possibly Crew-3 will use new spacecraft, he said.