Space transport roundup – Feb.22.2019

Another sampling of items related to traveling to and through space:

** SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo Mission passes review – NASA and SpaceX held a flight readiness review (FRR) today to determine if the Falcon 9/Crew Dragon combo is ready for the first test flight to the ISS. The uncrewed Demo-1 mission is set for March 2nd. The FRR concluded with approval of the mission. Demo-1 Flight Readiness Concludes – Commercial Crew Program

Following a full day of briefings and discussion, NASA and SpaceX are proceeding with plans to conduct the first uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon on a mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 2:48 a.m. EST Saturday, March 2 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will launch to the space station.

At 6 p.m., NASA will broadcast a post-flight readiness review briefing from Kennedy, with the following representatives:

    • William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, NASA Human Exploration and Operations
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • Norm Knight, deputy director, NASA  Johnson Space Center Flight Operations

[ Update: Here is a video of the FRR briefing:


More at

Assuming this uncrewed mission goes well, there will be one more uncrewed demonstration mission before a crew flies. That demo will test the in-flight abort system with the Crew Dragon vehicle separating from the rocket at the point, a minute or so after liftoff, when the vehicle experiences maximum dynamic pressure, i.e. maximum stress from the combination of the opposing forces of the engines and atmospheric drag. The flight will use the same booster that flew on yesterday’s launch of the Indonesian comm-sat and SpaceIL lunar lander.

** SpaceX Falcon 9 launches comm-sat plus two secondaries including an Israeli spacecraft going to the Moon.  On Thursday evening at Cape Canaveral, SpaceX’s second F9 launch of the year put the Indonesian Nusantara Satu communications satellite on track to a geostationary orbit. The two secondary payloads included the S5 USAF technology demo satellite and SpaceIL‘s lunar lander spacecraft, which is named Beresheet (Hebrew for “genesis” or “in the beginning”). The F9 booster, which was on its third mission, landed safely on a floating platform in rough seas after coming back from the highest altitude so far for a recovered booster.

The SpaceIL non-profit, volunteer project began as an entry in the Google Lunar X PRIZE  but continued after the GLXP ended. It will be the first privately funded mission to the Moon. If successful, Israel will be only the fourth country (after US, Soviet Union, and China) to put a lander onto the Moon.

**** The Beresheet journey to the Moon will take seven weeks. As shown in this video, the Beresheet craft will use its onboard propulsion system to bring the apogee of its earth orbit closer and closer to the Moon’s orbit.

Once it is close enough, the engine will fire to allow for the Moon’s gravity to capture it. This is scheduled to happen on April 4th. A week later the craft will make its landing attempt. Here is the time table:

A graphic timeline of the major events in the Beresheet mission.

I’ll be following the mission here and you can find updates from the project at Israel To The Moon (@TeamSpaceIL) | Twitter.

** Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo makes second powered flight in 10 weeks to edge of space. See postings here on the flight:

** Soyuz 2-1B launches EgyptSat-A earth observation satellite successfully from the Baikonur Cosmodrome despite a problem with the third stage booster:

See also

** Firefly Aerospace announced on Friday that it will open a rocket factory at Cape Canaveral and launch the vehicles at a nearby pad:

At an event at Cape Canaveral on Feb. 22, Florida officials and Firefly Aerospace CEO Tom Markusic announce plans for the company to open a rocket factory at the Cape and to launch the vehicles there.

From the Verge article:

Texas-based spaceflight company Firefly Aerospace is moving into a new launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida — the location of US’s premier spaceport. Thanks to a deal with Space Florida, a government agency that spurs development in the state, Firefly will be taking over a pad called SLC-20 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as well as building a nearby manufacturing facility. That means the launch provider now has secured two launchpads for the rockets it has been developing: one in Florida and another at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

** Black Arrow Technologies in the UK plans to use a sea-going launch platform for its smallsat rocket system:

Black Arrow Space Technologies is developing its own spaceship – a seaborne spaceport which will be used to launch satellites of up to, initially, 500 kg in to Low Earth Orbit. The “spaceship” will be based in a South Wales port, along with its support vessels, and will enable rockets to be launched North or South without overflying populated areas. We are creating a flexible British launch capability to support the thriving British satellite industry which will allow launches to take place from the best place to achieve the required orbit. This CGI animation, created for us by Animated Technologies, gives a great impression of what we are aiming to achieve.

The company’s rocket is powered with liquid natural gas and can put up to 500 kg into Low Earth Orbit.

** LAUNCHER claims it’s 3D printed rocket engine is bigger than the other guys’ 3D printed rocket engines:  Rocket start-up Launcher gets largest single piece 3D printed engine – CNBC

The simply-named company, Launcher, provided CNBC with a first look at the company’s E-2 engine, which was made in Germany by AMCM using its specialized M4K printer. Launcher has only five full-time employees but credits its ability to develop E-2 quickly to the advances made in 3D printing.

“With 3D printing, we’re now in a world where a start-up like us can now access [advanced] liquid oxygen propulsion technologies,” Launcher founder Max Haot told CNBC.

** More SpaceX:

**** A profile of Maria Pointer who lives in Boca Chica Beach and posts photos and videos of SpaceX activities taken from her backyard:

**** Here are new videos of SpaceX at Boca Chica courtesy of South Padre Island Information:


**** Elon Musk commented on Tweeter that the first full-scale Raptor engine underwent increasingly strenuous test firings until it reached the point where it failed as expected. A second engine will begin testing soon.


The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos