Space transport roundup – Mar.29.2019

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

** Boeing successfully tests integrated propulsion system for the Starliner crew vehicle. This comes after the system suffered a leak of the highly toxic propellant during a test in 2018. Boeing Completes Starliner Hot Fire Test – Commercial Crew Program

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner propulsion system was put to the test on Thursday at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico in support of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Teams ran multiple tests on Starliner’s in-space maneuvering system and the spacecraft’s launch abort system, which are key elements on the path to restore America’s capability to fly astronauts to the International Space Station on American rockets and spacecraft from U.S. soil.

The test used a flight-like Starliner service module with a full propulsion system comprising of fuel and helium tanks, reaction control system and orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters, launch abort engines and all necessary fuel lines and avionics.

** Rocket Lab making progress on the launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia:

**ESA’s Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator (ETID) project tests new technologies for next-gen upper-stage rocket engines: ‘Intelligent’ thrust for Europe’s future launchers – ESA

ESA has recently completed hot-firing tests that prove technologies in a move towards ‘intelligent’ engines to power the upper stages of next-generation launchers.

The Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator, or ETID, is a full-scale integrated demonstrator for an upper-stage rocket engine.

Yesterday ESA, industrial partners and representatives of participating Member States met at DLR Lampoldshausen, Germany, to review the results of ETID’s extremely successful nine-month test campaign on the P3.2 test bench.

In total, four configurations of ETID with three new combustion chamber geometries and designs were tested.

Two different injector heads, including a fully 3D-printed version were also tested, as well

ETID - Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator
ETID – Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator

** ULA’s Vulcan and Northrop-Grumman’s OmegA rockets make some progress towards first flights in 2021: Two National Security Space Launch Rockets Moving Forward – Air Force Magazine

** Virgin Orbit flies a fully fueled LauncherOne rocket beneath their 747 carrier:

** Virgin Orbit works with NASA on 3D printing of propulsion system components: Exploring 3-D Printing Alongside NASA Marshall Space Flight Center | Virgin Orbit

** SpaceX:

** The chain of Starlink satellites launched last week by a Falcon 9 was easy to see from the ground when passing overhead:

*** The video of the deployment of the Starlink sats showed them slowly separating in clumps rather than scattering individually like dandelion seeds, which I think many viewers had expected. Here is an animation showing what was actually happening.

*** The brightness of the Starlinks set off a Twitter ado over what impact 1200 to 15000 such satellites will have on astronomy:

*** Initial broadband Internet services could begin with just 360 Starlinks: SpaceX wants to offer Starlink internet to consumers after just six launches – Teslarati.

*** Another view of the Starlink launch via the team at

*** The recovered Starlinks booster has returned to Port Canaveral:

*** The nosecone fairings from the were recovered as well and may be used again in a future launch:

*** Still no official explanation for the explosion during the Crew Dragon test but the investigation is making progress according to NASA officials:

From Space News:

More than a month after a Crew Dragon spacecraft was destroyed in a test of its propulsion system, NASA and SpaceX investigators are still working to determine the cause of the accident and its implications for upcoming test flights.

In a May 28 presentation to the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee, Kathy Lueders, manager of the commercial crew program at NASA, offered few updates on the progress of the investigation into the April 20 incident at a SpaceX pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

In that incident, SpaceX was testing both the Draco thrusters and larger SuperDraco abort thrusters in preparation for an in-flight abort test of the capsule that, at the time, was scheduled for the end of June. “An anomaly occurred during activation of the SuperDraco system,” she said, but offered no details on what caused that anomaly.

*** Work on the Starhopper and Starship orbital demonstrator vehicles at Boca Chica Beach, Texas and Cocoa, Florida appears to be making good progress. Observers are on the lookout at Boca Chica for the arrival of the Raptor engine that will power the Starhopper’s low altitude flights, the first of which is currently set for Monday of next week.

From NSF:

Meanwhile, SpaceX techs have begun to accelerate testing operations ahead of a crucial series of flights involving the Starhopper suborbital vehicle.

The Hopper last flew on April 5th, 2019, when it successfully performed a three foot hop test at the launch site while under power from a single Raptor flight-ready engine. During this test, the vehicle was held down by a group of tethers attached to each of the three landing legs.

Those tethers will not be present during upcoming hop tests, as confirmed by Musk on Twitter on April 26th.

He also stated in the same thread that the Hopper would use a single Raptor engine like before, though it would not be the same engine that was first used to propel the vehicle off the pad.

[ Update:


*** Elon Musk is expected to give an update on the Starship/Super Heavy project on June 20th and there appears to be an official website in preparation: SpaceX Starship website spotted ahead of Elon Musk’s June rocket update – Teslarati.

It appears that SpaceX is preparing a dedicated website for its proposed Starship point-to-point transport system, potentially capable of transporting dozens of passengers anywhere on Earth in just 30-60 minutes.

Assuming this website is actually a prelude to a SpaceX reveal (it could be completely unrelated), it seems likely that will go live sometime around CEO Elon Musk’s planned June 20th update on Starship and Super Heavy. Much like went live on the day of SpaceX’s first dedicated launch, the company may be ready to tease more substantial details and fleshed-out plans for its aspirational Starship airline.

*** Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut, provides a tutorial on the Raptor engine that will power the Starship and the Super Heavy booster: Is SpaceX’s Raptor engine the king of rocket engines? – Everyday Astronaut


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