A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport:
** Giant Stratolaunch aircraft flies for the first time at Mojave Air & Space Port: Stratolaunch Completes Historic First Flight of Aircraft – Stratolaunch
Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, founded by Paul G. Allen, today successfully completed the first flight of the world’s largest all-composite aircraft, the Stratolaunch. With a dual fuselage design and wingspan greater than the length of an American football field, the Stratolaunch aircraft took flight at 0658 PDT from the Mojave Air & Space Port. Achieving a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour, the plane flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet. As part of the initial flight, the pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities before landing successfully back at the Mojave Air and Space Port.
The test team conducted standard aircraft testing exercises. Initial results from today’s test points include:
- Performed a variety of flight control maneuvers to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips.
- Conducted simulated landing approach exercises at a max altitude of 15,000 feet mean sea level.
The Stratolaunch aircraft is a mobile launch platform that will enable airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine. The reinforced center wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.
“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc. and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.”
Following the death of Paul Allen, the company canceled plans to build rocket vehicles for the aircraft launch platform. Currently the only rocket that is nominally compatible for launch from the aircraft is the very expensive Northrop Grumman Pegasus. So it’s unclear what is ahead for the company and the largest aircraft ever flown.
In a short press call, @Stratolaunch executives say the flight went very well. Alt of 17,000 feet, max speed of 189 mph. But not a word on the future of the company in the wake of Paul Allen’s death. And they refused to take any questions. Which is not a good sign.
— Christian Davenport (@wapodavenport) April 13, 2019
— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) April 13, 2019
** PLD Space of Spain tests first stage booster return by parachute. The suborbital MIURA 1 and orbital MIURA 5 rocket systems each reuse their first stage boosters, which return to earth via parachute. The company carried out a drop test for the MIURA 5 booster this past Thursday (April 11): Successful drop test of the demonstrator of the first stage of MIURA 5 – PLD Space –
A brief video of the test:
PLD Space has successfully completed the first drop test with a full-scale demonstrator of the first stage of the MIURA 5 orbital rocket. This project is part of the FLPP-LPSR program, promoted by the European Space Agency (ESA), supported by CDTI, INTA, Ejército de Tierra #FAMET #BHELTRAV, Tecnalia
** Japan’s Interstellar Technologies prepares for next launch of the MOMO suborbital rocket: Launch Test of “MOMO No. 3”, a Space-Shifting Sounding Rocket- Interstellar Technologies Inc. (Google Translation)
Expected launch date: April 30, 2019 (Tuesday)
Expected launch time: 11:15 to 12:30, 16:00 to 17:20 (Japan Standard Time)
Wednesday, May 1, 2019 16: 00-17: 20
Thursday, May 2 2019-Sunday, May 5
5: 00-8: 00
11:15 to 12:30
16: 00-17: 20
Launch location: Hokkaido Taiki-cho launch site
The first MOMO test in 2017 flew for about a minute before a break in the telemetry communications connection caused a premature shutdown of the engine. On the second test in 2018, the engine shutoff shortly after liftoff and the rocket fell back to the pad and exploded.
Chinese launch startup Deep Blue Aerospace has carried out a gas generator ignition test for its ‘thunder’ (雷霆/LeiTing) 10-ton-thrust kerolox engine for a planned Nebula-1 （星云一号） (500 kg to 500 km SSO) launcher. https://t.co/2zOm7IG0u3 pic.twitter.com/0NIAf2gjKT
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) April 10, 2019
More about Deep Blue and other Chinese rocket startups:
- Chinese rocket startup wants to achieve SpaceX success in 50% less time than Elon Musk · TechNode
- Commercial space sector ready for takeoff – Chinadaily.com.cn
- Analysis | The rise of China’s private space industry – SpaceNews.com
** Blue Origin continues to add more facilities:
We’ve gone vertical with our new HQ and R&D facility in Kent, WA! We’re continuing to add to our world-class team and excited for a large new facility that will support rapid growth. Thanks to Mayor @dana_ralph and @cityofkent as well as everyone involved with the construction. pic.twitter.com/SjUa8fEvpM
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) April 11, 2019
**** More views of the Falcon Heavy launch of Arabsat-6A and the landing of the boosters:
[ Update: Slo-mo views of the liftoff and landings:
**** The fairings from the Arabsat-6A mission were recovered after they landed softly in the water via paragliders and will be reused for a launch of SpaceX’s broadband Internet satellites:
Both fairing halves recovered. Will be flown on Starlink 💫 mission later this year. pic.twitter.com/ouz1aqW3Mm
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 12, 2019
**** More about the FH:
- SpaceX revenue ‘inflection point’ for Falcon Heavy second flight: Banker – CNBC
- Falcon Heavy soars; SpaceX lands critical NASA double asteroid redirect launch – NASASpaceFlight.com
- SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy successful in commercial debut – Spaceflight Now
**** SpaceX wins NASA contract to launch the DART asteroid impact mission:
- NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Asteroid Redirect Test | NASA
- DART Mission Set to Launch on SpaceX Falcon 9
NASA’s first planetary defense mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), has been slated for a June 2021 launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The mission, led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, will be the first to demonstrate the kinetic impactor technique, which involves slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid at high speed to shift it off course.
“We’re excited that NASA has selected the vehicle to launch DART on its important planetary defense mission,” said DART Mission Systems Engineer Elena Adams, of APL. “The DART team is eager to move ahead with our spacecraft and mission designs and demonstrate, for the first time in space, a method to keep potentially hazardous bodies from reaching Earth.”
DART will target the smaller of the two objects that make up the binary asteroid Didymos, which will be about 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth at the time of impact, scheduled for October 2022.
** Some misc. space transport items:
- Three companies selected for DARPA Launch Challenge – SpaceNews.com
- Exolaunch and Virgin Orbit sign memorandum of understanding – SpaceNews.com
- Some NATO countries interested in Russian rocket engines, says Roscosmos chief – TASS