Space transport roundup – Feb.19.2019

A sampling of recent items related to traveling to and through space:

** Second suborbital space flight of Virgin Galactic‘s SpaceShipTwo is expected within the next few days. Here is a new video from VG about preparations for the flight:

[ Update: Here is the official confirmation of plans for a another powered SS2 flight: SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, Prepares for Fifth Supersonic Powered Test Flight – Virgin Galactic

With the usual caveats that apply to all test flights, and with the added uncertainties of weather at this time of year in Mojave, the window for our fifth supersonic powered test flight opens on February 20, 2019, and our test flight is planned for the morning of Wednesday, February 20.

Although we passed a major milestone in December, we still have a way to go in testing the many factors that can affect a flight. So, for this flight, we will be expanding the envelope to gather new and vital data essential to future tests and operations, including vehicle center of gravity.

We are proud to be flying NASA Flight Opportunity program research payloads again. The spaceship will be a little heavier than last time, and very close to a full commercial weight.

We are now at the stage where we can confirm some of the aspects of the customer cabin and this will be a continuing theme as we enter this final stage of flight test. It is of paramount importance to our future business success that we not only give our future astronauts a safe ride, but an experience which exceeds expectations. We know, as part of a Group that has led the way in commercial aviation customer experience, cabin design is fundamental to that objective and so this element is an integral part of our flight test program.


VG is looking for additional capital following the collapse of a partnership with Saudis who were planning to provided a billion or more dollars for Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit projects: Branson hunts Galactic cash after grounding $1bn Saudi deal – Sky News.

** An Arianespace Soyuz rocket is set for launch on February 26th of the first 6 satellites of the OneWeb broadband constellation, which will eventually comprise 900 satellites (the system becomes operational globally with 600).

** SEOPS deployed 2 CubeSats from Northrop-Grumman’s Cygnus cargo vehicle after it departed from the ISS on February 8th. These were the first satellite deployments from the Cygnus for SEOPS™, LLC., a new company based in Houston. SEOPS joins NanoRacks as a provider of satellite deployments from the Cygnus and ISS. NanoRacks also deployed three smallsats from the Cygnus using deployers attached to the side of the Cygnus (see earlier posting).

SEOPS uses a deployer called SlingShot, which is attached to the hatch of the Cygnus by ISS crew members (see two gold colored boxes in image below).

Click for time lapse GIF. “SS Crew members David Saint-Jacques and Anne Mcclain installed two Slingshot deployables, SEOPS-Quantum Radar -1 and -2s, onto the outer hatch of the Cygnus Spacecraft. Also installed in a deployable slot is the UbiquityLink-1 orbit to ground communications hardware. The two passive optical reflector satellites will be released after Cygnus moves away from the ISS.” Credits: NASA

The deployers can also be seen in this image of the Cygnus during its unberthing from the station:

Click for GIF animation. “The Cygnus Spacecraft leaves the ISS with SlingShot payloads in preparation for deployment activities.” Credits: NASA

More about the SEOPS and the cubesat deployments:

Find updates from SEOPS at SEOPS (@SEOPSLLC) | Twitter

** HyperSciences fires projectiles at hypersonic speeds up for suborbital launch or down for deep drilling into the earth: HyperSciences wants to ‘gamechange’ spaceflight with hypersonic drilling tech | TechCrunch

HyperSciences – Aerospace NASA Launch – SeedInvest
from HyperSciences on Vimeo.

** SpaceX:

**** A Falcon 9 launch is set for Thursday at Cape Canaveral following a successful static firing test on Monday. Liftoff time is 8:45 pm. EST (0145 GMT on 22nd). The payloads include the PSN 6 communications satellite for Indonesia, a USAF technology demo smallsat, and the Beresheet lunar lander built by the non-profit group SpaceIL of Israel.

A blurry view of the test via a camera placed outside the perimeter of the Cape by the team at

Here’s an earlier video from USLaunch showing testing of the erector at pad 40:

**** Super Heavy boosters and Starships will be constructed in Texas, though many components will be built at the company’s Hawthorne, California facility: SpaceX job posts confirm Starship’s Super Heavy booster will be built in Texas – Teslarati.

The new stainless steel structure design promises to lower investment requirements and speed up construction but there still remain big technical challenges for the vehicles to achieve routine, low cost access to space: Elon Musk says SpaceX is developing a ‘bleeding’ heavy-metal rocket ship. Making it work may be 100 times as hard as NASA’s most difficult Mars mission, one expert says., Business Insider – Business Insider Singapore.

SpaceX’s south Texas facility at Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville appears to be safe for the time being from being split by a barrier at the border to Mexico: A $1.37 billion border-security deal might save SpaceX’s launch site in Texas, where Elon Musk hopes to fire off moon and Mars rockets, Business Insider – Business Insider Singapore

Here are a couple of videos from South Padre Island Information showing the StarHopper under construction at Boca Chica:

More StarHopper photos at

**** SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket one year later business case – CNBC – SpaceX hopes Falcon Heavy missions this year will pay back some of the substantial investment that went into the complex but powerful launch system.

** Other space transport news items:


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