Space transport roundup – May.9.2019

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

[ Update: A message from Blue Origin today points to a video of the Blue Moon unveiling yesterday.

On May 9, 2019, our founder discussed his vision to go to space to benefit Earth.

Watch the full replay of this event

In addition, he also announced the Blue Moon lunar lander, which is capable of taking people and payloads to the lunar surface. Below you’ll find more information about these announcements.

Blue Moon lunar landerBlue Origin announced Blue Moon, its large lunar lander capable of delivering multiple metric tons of payload to the lunar surface based on configuration and mission. The cargo variant revealed today can carry 3.6 metric tons to the surface. We have also designed a variant of the lander that can stretch to be capable of carrying a 6.5-metric-ton, human-rated ascent stage. Blue also announced it can meet the current Administration’s goal of putting Americans on the Moon by 2024 with the Blue Moon lunar lander. 

BE-7 engineThe Blue Moon lunar lander will be powered by the BE-7 engine, a new addition to Blue Origin’s family of engines. The BE-7’s 40 kN (10,000 lbf) thrust is designed for large lunar payload transport. The engine’s propellants are a highly-efficient combination of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The BE-7 will have its first hotfire this summer. The engine will be available for sale to other companies for use in in-space and lander applications.

Club For the Future: A non-profit founded by Blue Origin dedicated to inspiring and engaging the next generation of dreamers and space entrepreneurs as we journey to preserve Earth and unlock the potential of living and working in space. The Club will bring together K-12 students, educators and leaders for campaigns and initiatives utilizing Blue Origin’s unique access to space. The Club’s first activity will be to send a postcard to space and back on a future New Shepard mission—the first ever space mail. Learn more on the website ( Follow @ClubforFuture on Twitter and Instagram.


**  Jeff Bezos unveiled Blue Origin‘s Blue Moon lunar lander design at an event today –

Blue Moon is a flexible lander delivering a wide variety of small, medium and large payloads to the lunar surface. Its capability to provide precise and soft landings will enable a sustained human presence on the Moon.

Initially for cargo and later for human transport:

The Blue Moon lander can deliver large infrastructure payloads with high accuracy to pre-position systems for future missions. The larger variant of Blue Moon has been designed to land an ascent vehicle that will allow us to return Americans to the Moon by 2024.

Blue Moon with Ascent Vehicle
Blue Moon with ascent vehicle.

The lander is powered by the BE-7 Liquid Oxygen/Liquid Hydrogen engine, which will begin hot fire tests this summer.

… high specific impulse, deep throttling and restart capabilities of the BE-7 make the engine ideal for large lunar payload transport, while enabling Blue Moon’s oxygen/hydrogen fuel cell power system.

Blue Origin BE-7 Engine
Blue Origin BE-7 Engine

** Highlights of engine development by PLD Space in Spain, which is developing suborbital and orbital rockets with reusable boosters:

** More about Spinlaunch‘s facility under construction at Spaceport America in New Mexico:


This fact sheet lays out the envisioned launch cost and frequency, for instance, and states that SpinLaunch aims to loft its first payload by 2022. And we get the following description of the launch system:

“SpinLaunch utilizes existing technology and components from oil/gas/mining and wind turbine industries to construct an innovative mass-acceleration system, which achieves very high launch speeds without the need for enormous power generation or massive infrastructure. After ascending above the atmosphere, a relatively small, low-cost onboard rocket will be used to provide the final required velocity for orbital insertion. Because the majority of the energy required to reach orbit is sourced from ground-based electricity, as opposed to complex onboard rocket propulsion, total launch cost is reduced by an order of magnitude over existing launch systems.”

** Rocket Crafters partners with RUAG of Switzerland on development of rockets based on Rocket Crafters’s hybrid motor technology:

From the press release:

Rocket Crafters, a manufacturer of advanced rockets operating from the Florida Space Coast, and RUAG Space, a leading independent product supplier for spacecraft, electronics and launchers, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at Satellite Conference 2019 in Washington D.C. – creating a new supplier agreement in the small launcher market.

Rocket Crafters will collaborate with RUAG on the design, development and procurement of a sounding rocket guidance and navigation system, nose cone and aeroshell in order to support an initial test flight, with the goal to achieve reliable, cost effective and fast time-to-market.

Sub-Orbital Flight Rocket Crafters rocket
A Rocket Crafters suborbital rocket in flight.

** Leaders of launch services providers gave their views on the status of the industry this week during panels at the Satellite 2019 conference:

** SpaceX:

*** A Dragon Crew vehicle parachute test went awry back in April: SpaceX had a problem during a parachute test in April | Ars Technica

The test appears to have occurred last month at Delamar Dry Lake in Nevada, where SpaceX was conducting one of dozens of drop tests it intends to perform to demonstrate the safety of its Crew Dragon spacecraft. This was a “single-out” test in which one of Dragon’s four parachutes intentionally failed before the test. “The three remaining chutes did not operate properly,” [NASA’s chief of human spaceflight Bill Gerstenmaier] said.

A follow-up:

*** Aerospace Corp is “overseeing the process of safely packing more than two dozen satellites” into the fairing of the Falcon Heavy for the STP-2 mission set for June : SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Hauls a Complex Payload | The Aerospace Corporation

The Aerospace team in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is playing a major role in the flight, making sure all the satellites fit together aboard the world’s most powerful rocket. Aerospace engineers ensure the payloads don’t negatively affect each other in this complex arrangement by using a rideshare mission assurance protocol called “Do-No-Harm” (DNH). DNH is a process that focuses on ensuring no payload on a rideshare mission will negatively affect the on-orbit functionality of any other payload. The individual payloads on STP-2 are all responsible for their own mission success, but through the DNH process, Aerospace is ensuring that everyone inside the Falcon Heavy nose cone plays nice with each other.

*** Gwynne Shotwell talked about the upcoming launch of Starlink satellites during the recent launch providers panel at the Satellite 2019 conference: SpaceX to launch “dozens” of Starlink satellites May 15, more Starlink launches to follow –

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, said the launch will carry “dozens of satellites,” adding more prototypes to the two currently in low Earth orbit.

“This next batch of satellites will really be a demonstration set for us to see the deployment scheme and start putting our network together,” she said at the Satellite 2019 conference here. “We start launching satellites for actual service later this year.”

Shotwell said SpaceX anticipates launching two to six more times for its Starlink broadband constellation in addition to the May 15 launch. How many Starlink launches occur this year depend on the results of this first batch, she said.

*** Falcon 9 booster legs retracted rather than removed. SpaceX introduced the Block 5 Falcon first stage boosters in 2018, hailing the design as the culmination of many lessons learned from landing and reusing the earlier generation boosters. Blk 5 boosters should provide up to a dozen launches between overhauls and to re-fly as soon as 24 hours after a launch. This requires quick operations such as simply retracting the landing legs back into their launch positions. During the past year, though, observers at Port Canaveral saw workers removing the legs before recovered Blk 5 boosters were transported back to the hangars.

That changed for the booster recovered from the recent Cargo Dragon CRS-17 mission to the ISS: SpaceX hits new Falcon 9 reusability milestone, retracts all four landing legs – Teslarati

SpaceX – All Legs Retracted – Historic Step 05-07-2019  ( –

Still more video to come of Load and Transport. This is CRS-17, B1056 Booster. This video runs in real time{ No fast motion}. Takes place over three days. We know it’s long, we left out hours of footage.

** Low latitude flights of Starhopper may start happening in the next few weeks: SpaceX’s Starhopper gains thruster pods as hop test preparations ramp up – Teslararti

Amid a flurry of new construction at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facilities, technicians have begun to install thruster pods on Starhopper in anticipation of the prototype’s first untethered flights.

According to CEO Elon Musk, Starhopper’s “untethered hover tests” will begin with just one Raptor engine installed, potentially allowing hops to restart within the next few weeks. SpaceX is currently testing Raptor SN03 (and possibly SN02) a few hundred miles north in McGregor, Texas, just a few hours’ drive south once the engine is deemed flight-ready. Meanwhile, Starhopper itself needs a considerable amount of new hardware before it can begin Raptor-powered flight testing.

** Assembly of the demo orbital Starship prototype continues at Boca Chica as well:



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