Space transport roundup – June.28.2019

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

[ Update: SpaceX accelerates Super Heavy/Starship development : SpaceX targets 2021 commercial Starship launch –

More SpaceX items below.


** Rocket Lab aims to launch an Electron rocket on June 29th following two postponements.

Live streaming webcast will begin 20 minutes before the targeted lift-off time. Here is some background on the “Make it Rain” mission:

The Make It Rain mission will launch multiple spacecraft as part of a rideshare flight procured by Spaceflight. The launch will take place from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.

The mission is named ‘Make it Rain’ in a nod to the high volume of rainfall in Seattle, where Spaceflight is headquartered, as well in New Zealand where Launch Complex 1 is located. Among the payloads on the mission for Spaceflight are BlackSky’s Global-3 satellite and Melbourne Space Program’s ACRUX-1 CubeSat.

More about the mission:

** Space is the theme of the July/August 2019 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine and several of the articles deal with space transport related topics, e.g.

** An interesting interview with Tom Markusic, founder and CEO of Firefly Aerospace, who talks about his experiences in working at NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic: Talking With a Leader of the Next Generation of Rocketry Companies – Texas Monthly

TM: I recently saw a stat that said SpaceX built its Falcon 9 rocket with almost $400 million, whereas there was a NASA estimate that it would cost $1.6 billion to build a similar kind of vehicle. Why is it so much cheaper for a private company to do that? 

MARKUSIC: When you’re doing something in that heritage space way, you’re inheriting a lot of requirements that can drive cost up. It’s a very risk-averse framework. Many things in the government are like, “You just add money and a person. Here are the instructions—do this thing.” That type of approach is usually pretty reliable in getting the result you want, but it’s really expensive. And it’s usually undergirded by contractors who are disincentivized to make things at the lowest cost. With New Space, you’re spending people’s money; you’re not spending this amorphous blob of taxpayer money. That just pervades the whole culture. 

** China’s Kyushu Yunjian rocket company fires up the gas generator for the “Longyun” Liquid Methane/Liquid Oxygen engine: “Longyun” 80t high thrust engine gas generator passed the assessment – Google Translate

In the second half of the year, Kyushu Yunjian […] will conduct a test of the whole machine test for the “Lingyun” engine. After the whole machine is tested, the “Lingyun” engine will enter the reliability test and assessment stage. The 80-ton “Longyun” liquid oxygen methane engine with greater thrust will also be tested and tested by other components in the second half of the year. Reusable and recycling technology verification rocket platform “Ling Wei” has completed the program demonstration, and is currently undergoing detailed engineering design and optimization.

** EU backed project pursues development of vertical landing reusable rockets.

Five European Companies and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have teamed up to tackle the shortcoming of
know-how in reusable rockets in Europe, which start upright and land upright after a successful mission. For that,
they commonly decided to investigate and develop key technologies to land rockets backwards. What is state-of-the-
art in the USA is only in its beginnings in Europe, and the consortium is determined to accept the challenge and
to become important players in this game changing technology.

RETALT1 Artwork

RETALT (RETro propulsion Assisted Landing Technologies) is a European project which got funded with 3 Mio. €
by the European Commission in the frame of Horizon 2020. The partnering organizations are the DLR (Germany),
CFS Engineering (Switzerland), Elecnor Deimos (Spain), MT Aerospace (Germany), Almatech (Switzerland) and
Amorim Cork Composites (Portugal).

During the three years of the project lifetime the consortium will investigate the areas of aerodynamics, aerothermodynamics (i.e. the temperatures that evolve at the surface of the vehicle during flight), flight dynamics, guidance, navigation and control, and advanced structural parts, materials and mechanisms. For this purpose, two types of rocket launchers will be investigated which both start and land in an upright position. One of them will have two stages and will be similar to conventional rockets like the Falcon 9 or the Ariane 5 launcher. For this launcher only the first stage will be landed again. The second launcher has only a single stage. It will be designed for the use of smaller payloads and when returning it will break not only with retro propulsion but also with the aid of a large aerodynamic base surface at the bottom.

See also Europe says SpaceX “dominating” launch, vows to develop Falcon 9-like rocket | Ars Technica

** Boeing’s Starliner crew spacecraft passes major milestone with the qualification of the parachute system: Starliner Space Capsule Completes Parachute Testing – Boeing

** The 3rd Annual Spaceport America Cup attracted 120 teams and the UW team was the overall winner: University of Washington Wins Third Annual Spaceport America Cup

Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport and the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA), congratulate the University of Washington Society for Advanced Rocket Propulsion as the Champion of the Third Annual Spaceport America Cup. Champions were selected in each category, and the University of Washington team was chosen by judges from the group of category champions as the overall winner.  

From June 18–22, thousands of students and spectators flocked to southern New Mexico from all over the globe, creating an economic and tourism boost for surrounding communities as part of their attendance at the 2019 Spaceport America Cup. This year’s competition was the largest to date, with over 120 teams registered including a large international presence from 14 different countries.

** SpaceX:

**** SpaceX raises more funding for Starlink and Starship development:

“SpaceX is the world’s leading private space launch provider, and we are excited to work with the company in the next phase of its growth as it rolls out its Starlink satellite network,” said Olivia Steedman, Senior Managing Director, TIP.

SpaceX was identified as a compelling investment opportunity for TIP due to its proven track record of technology disruption in the launch space and significant future growth potential in the satellite broadband market. TIP focuses on late-stage venture capital and growth equity investments in companies that use technology to disrupt incumbents and create new sectors.

“Our investment in SpaceX fits well within the TIP investment strategy of capitalizing on significant global opportunities in new businesses and sectors that are emerging as a result of unprecedented technological change,” added Ms. Steedman.

**** Next Dragon Cargo mission to the ISS set for July 21: SpaceX Targeting Sunday, July 21, at 7:35 p.m. for CRS-18 Launch – SpaceX

**** The 24 satellites launched on the latest Falcon Heavy mission are operating:

**** Center-core landing failure due to heat from the high re-entry velocity: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk explains why Falcon Heavy’s center core missed the drone ship – Teslarati

**** The first successful fairing catch took place in the dark in the Atlantic ocean:

**** Satellite image shows post landing activities of the two side boosters:

**** Watching the construction of the Starhopper and StarShip demonstrators is a popular on-line and on-site spectator pastime.


**** Elon visits the Starship orbital demonstrator under construction in Florida: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk & Raptor engine make surprise visit to Florida Starship – Teslarati

In what seems to be a coincidence, Musk’s message – either recorded or streamed – was filmed on SpaceX’s Florida Starship development campus, a surprisingly large facility uncovered less than two months ago. The CEO was standing in the sun directly in front of two large segments of the second orbital-class Starship prototype, part of a parallel development process featuring a second Starship prototype (and separate Starhopper) in Texas. Musk’s appearance at Starship Florida is not particularly surprising; if he flew all the way to Florida for Falcon Heavy, might as well tour SpaceX’s newest Florida facilities on the same trip.

**** The Super Heavy Booster/StarShip combo will be quite a sight to see:


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