Space transport roundup – April.25.2019

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

** The Chinese launch startup ‘Space Transportation’ tests a winged reusable rocket, built in partnership with a team at Xiamen University: “Tianxing I-1” first horizontal recovery technology verified the success of the rocket test flight – (Google Translation).

…Aerospace Academy successfully launched the “Jia Geng No. 1” winged rocket – Xiamen University

** NASA documentary on Rocket Lab Electron launch of 10 student built CubeSats sponsored by the agency:

In December 2018, a Rocket Lab Electron rocket launched from remote Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand carrying a NASA payload of 10 small satellites called Educational Launch of Nanosatellites-19 (ELaNa-19). The Electron is one of two vehicles NASA selected for its Venture Class Launch Service, in which small satellites, called CubeSats, fly on rockets designed especially for their needs. In this documentary, learn how the first launch of the Venture Class era demonstrates how the right ride into space can enable the designers of small satellites—from high schools and universities to NASA field centers—to dream big. To launch with ELaNa, visit

>>> Rocket Lab’s next launch is set for no earlier than May 4th and has a 2 week long window.

The satellites on board this mission will represent Rocket Lab’s heaviest launch to date, with the total payload weighing in at more than 180 kg. There are three research and development experiments on board for the U.S. Air Force, including: 

    • The Space Plug and Play Architecture Research CubeSat-1 (SPARC-1) mission, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), is a joint Swedish-United States experiment to explore technology developments in avionics miniaturization, software defined radio systems, and space situational awareness (SSA).
    • The Falcon Orbital Debris Experiment (Falcon ODE), sponsored by the United States Air Force Academy, will evaluate ground-based tracking of space objects, such as space junk. 
    • The Harbinger research payload is a commercial small satellite built by York Space Systems that will demonstrate the ability of an experimental commercial system to meet government space capability requirements.

** Interstellar Technologies targeting April 30th for the suborbital MOMO launch attempt. There will be a live webcast. Check their Twitter page for latest info and links. Here is a video of a recent full duration test firing of the MOMO engine. Last year the engine on a MOMO rocket shut off shortly after liftoff and the rocket fell back to the pad and exploded.

** LinkSpace’s recent test (see previous roundup) is briefly described in this item: China’s LinkSpace successfully launches reusable rocket to a new height –

** An update on the SNC Dream Chaser cargo vehicle program:

>> SNC also continues to pursue a crew version of the Dream Chaser: Dream Chaser progress ahead of CRS2 as SNC keeps crew version alive –

** The design of the Turbo Rocket, an oxygen breathing vertical launch rocket, was presented by John Bucknell at the recent Space Access 2019 conference: Turbo Rocket –

Here is a video of presentation Bucknell gave in 2018:

** Stratolaunch looks for secure launch work following the successful first flight of the company’s giant aircraft: OPINION: Stratolaunch hopes to avoid Spruce Goose’s fate – Flight Global

Stratolaunch, usurper of Spruce Goose’s biggest-ever title, might seem equally ridiculous. Composite construction, two fuselages, six engines and other bits hacked together from old 747s, lots and lots of wheels and bogeys… But it flies, and apparently flies very well.

What we do not know is whether Stratolaunch has an economically viable future. Built to heft huge rockets to 35,000ft for air-launch, it is expected to start commercial life in 2020 launching Pegasus rockets, whose payload capacity is less than 400kg – a load easily orbited by any number of existing launchers. Moreover, Pegasus – normally air-launched from a modified Lockheed L-1011 – has flown only 35 times. Not a lot of demand there.

** Blue Origin grows its facilities in Washington state: Blue Origin will expand HQ and R&D in Kent – iLoveKent

Blue Origin is “going vertical” with its new headquarters and research and development facility in Kent, as they are expanding their world-class team, and will be building a new 250,000-square-foot facility that will support their new growth.

This means more rocket building, more hiring of rocket scientists, and a continued connection to space for the home of the original Lunar Rovers – Kent!

“I am so thrilled to see the progress on their new facility and love the energy they are putting into the business and that their employees will bring to the community,” Mayor Dana Ralph said. “We are proud they call the Kent Valley home.”

** The SpaceShip Company is buiding additional SpaceShipTwo rocket vehicles for Virgin Galactic:

** More about Boeing Starliner sea recovery tests carried out with NASA: DoD practices Starliner at sea recovery for first time –

In a critical first for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, the crew transportation vehicle is putting DoD and Air Force rescue teams through their paces as they seek to understand and refine what will be needed to rescue a Starliner crew from the capsule should an off-nominal landing in the water occur.

** Scott Manley: The Expander Cycle Rocket Engines – Using Waste Heat To Drive Your Rocket:

Another installment of ‘Things Kerbal Space Program Doesn’t Teach’ – explaining the expander cycle rocket engines in more detail. Expander cycles use the waste heat from the combustion chamber and nozzles to boil liquid hydrogen and power the turbines. The main advantages are cooler, less chemically active turbine environments, but if used in a closed cycle design the total thrust is limited.

** Relativity Space gets another launch contract. The company known for 3D printing its rockets, follows the multi-launch contract with Telesat with a contract with mu Space of Thailand: Relativity’s 3D Printed Terran 1 Rocket to Launch mu Space’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite | Business Wire

Relativity, the world’s first autonomous rocket factory and launch services leader for satellite constellations, today announced a partnership with mu Space, the innovative Thai satellite and space technology company, to launch a satellite to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on Relativity’s Terran 1 rocket, the world’s first and only 3D printed rocket.

Relativity’s groundbreaking, patented 3D printing technology platform together with Terran 1’s unique and flexible architecture provides mu Space a faster and more reliable launch at a lower total mission cost than any other launch services company in the world. With this launch partnership, two of the most visionary and innovative aerospace startups are sharing expertise, resources, and capabilities to transform the satellite launch and services industry across the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions.

Relativity is developing the first and only aerospace platform to integrate machine learning, software, and robotics with metal 3D printing technology to build and launch rockets in days instead of years, disrupting 60 years of global aerospace manufacturing. The company expects to build its Terran 1 rocket from raw material to launch-ready in less than 60 days. As an innovator in the Asia-Pacific and international arenas, mu Space is developing both Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellite and space technologies that will accelerate the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in smart cities, and encourage new space investments in the Asia-Pacific region. mu Space’s LEO satellite will be a primary, dedicated payload on Relativity’s Terran 1 rocket, launching in 2022.

** Momentus Space offers space tug services for satellites aiming to go from one orbit to another: Momentus seeks up to $25 million as it inks deals to transport cargo beyond low Earth orbit | TechCrunch

The service can deliver 300 kilograms or 400 kilograms within low Earth orbit and up to 100 kilograms to a lunar orbit, according to Kokorich — for a cost of around $4.8 million.

That’s radically cheaper than solutions that are currently on offer. Momentus uses rockets from any of the big private vendors to get its vessels into space and from there its own propulsion technologies and spacecrafts will haul a small cargo (roughly the size of a kitchen table) anywhere else it needs to go, [CEO Mikhail] Kokorich says.

** SpaceX:

>> Crew Dragon explosion investigation continues with little info released to the public so far:

>> Cargo Dragon mission remains targeted for an April 30th launch from Cape Canaveral: NASA moves ahead with cargo Dragon launch after Crew Dragon anomaly –

>> Video of the bottom half of the Falcon Heavy core booster at Port Canaveral. The booster landed successfully but later fell over onto the landing platform during heavy seas. A hold-down system for securing a core booster to prevent such toppling was not ready in time for this latest FH launch. Video via

>> Starship related activity continues at SpaceX’s Boca Chica Beach facilities but no sign yet of the Raptor engine, which was removed from the Starhopper after a short hop a couple of weeks ago.

The last few weeks of SpaceX’s work on Starship and Starhopper prototypes has been marked by less visible progress relative to the past few months. The changes that are visible, however, confirm that its Boca Chica engineers are working around the clock to complete the first orbital Starship prototype.

At the same time, it appears that SpaceX’s South Texas facilities are preparing for a rapid period of expansion and build-up. New work around the ad-hoc Starhopper pad has recently begun, while construction of a second concrete jig for concurrent prototype fabrication and what will likely be a more permanent hangar and control facility are also ramping up. Things have been quiet news-wise for SpaceX’s McGregor and Hawthorne facilities but there is reason to believe that Raptor production and testing is going smoothly.

Today there was a lot of pad work underway:


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