Space transport roundup – April.4.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport:

[ Update 2: The SpaceIL Beresheet spacecraft successfully entered lunar orbit this morning following a 6 minute firing of its engine: An Israeli lander is now orbiting the Moon ahead of a lunar landing next week – The Verge.

SpaceIL is a non-profit volunteer organization that designed the spacecraft and raised $100M for its development and launch. Israel becomes the 7th country with a spacecraft to make lunar orbit.

The landing attempt is set for Thursday, April 11th.

** The Russian Progress vehicle also successfully docked with the ISS just 3 hours and 20 minutes after its liftoff from Baikonur.

It was a coincidence that these two events happened at almost the same time. There is so much happening in space these days, there will be more and more of these days when multiple significant events happen: Progress MS-11 docks to the ISS; Station supplies in good shape –

Update: A Russian Soyuz launched a Progress cargo vehicle to the ISS this morning. The craft is taking a fast route to the station with the time from liftoff to docking only about 3.5 hours.

** SpaceX Falcon Heavy rolled out to the pad last night and is currently upright in preparation for the static test firing of the engines sometime today. Images of the FH on the pad:


** SpaceX:

**** The StarHopper fired its Raptor engine for the first time on Wednesday, April 3rd at the Boca Chica Beach facility. The 3 second firing and tethers kept the vehicle close to the ground:

Elon comments:

Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green.

The Starhopper will continue a series of tests that will eventually include un-tethered low altitude flights. These flights will require the installation of two more Raptors.

More at:

**** Falcon Heavy static fire set for Thursday in preparation for launch from Cape Kennedy on Sunday, April 7th with the Arabsat 6A communications satellite. All three stages will attempt to return and land. The side boosters will return to pads at the Cape while the center core will land on a platform at sea.

Liftoff is set to happen during a two hour window between 6:36-8:35 p.m. EDT (2236-0035 GMT on 7th/8th).

**** Crew Dragon in good shape after water landing from the uncrewed demo mission to the ISS:

See also SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says Crew Dragon reusability a “major improvement” – Teslarati

**** The Moon, Mars, and Beyond are possible with Falcon Heavy and Starship vehicles:

** India launches 29 satellites on a PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) including the Emisat spysat for the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and 28 smallsats for commercial customers:

** China launched the Tianlian 2-01 tracking and data relay satellite on March 31st: Long March 3B launches Tianlian 2-01 –

** China’s LinkSpace demos vertical takeoff and landing rocket as part of a step-by-step program to achieve an orbital rocket with a reusable first stage:

** Virgin Orbit prepares for first orbital launch this year and is currently focused on test firings of the two stages of the LauncherOne rocket: Launch Madness – Virgin Orbit Newsletter – April 2019

These down-to-the-buzzer milestones are some of our trickiest to overcome yet, but we’re in the zone, we’re feeling confident and we’re ready to keep the ball rolling toward first flight.

** Vector Launch aiming for suborbital flight in June and orbital launch later this year: Vector co-founder says company overcoming challenges to reach the launch pad | Ars Technica

Vector’s new plan targets the launch of a suborbital rocket, Vector-R B1001, for June. (There is no formal launch date yet set, Cantrell said, because “stuff happens.”) This mission will have a customer, but Cantrell isn’t ready to say who yet. Then, before the end of the year, the company intends to fly its first orbital rocket, Vector-R B1003, from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska.

Under the new plan, Vector now plans to skip an intermediate step in the development of its Vector-R rocket, which had been dubbed B1002. While this core would have been capable of reaching orbit, it would have only a very small payload capacity, unable to carry much more than some instrumentation. “For us, this turned out to be a dead-end configuration,” Cantrell said. Therefore, the company now plans to move directly from the suborbital test launch into a vehicle with larger tanks and more capable LP-1 engines.

** United Launch Alliance (ULA) starts building first Vulcan rocket with a goal of a first flight in 2021: The first space-worthy Vulcan rocket is taking shape | Ars Technica


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