Space transport roundup – July.14.2019

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

** SpaceX Starhopper demo vehicle prepared for first un-tethered low altitude flights at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site. More in SpaceX section below.

** India scrubs today’s launch of the Chandrayaan-2 lunar lander on a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV Mk.3).

More about the mission:

GSLV MkIII-M1 / Chandryaan 2 vehicle
The GSLV MkIII-M1 / Chandryaan 2 vehicle on the launch pad.

From SFN:

If everything goes according to plan, the three-in-one spacecraft will arrive in orbit around the moon around Aug. 5, then detach the landing craft around Sept. 2 or 3 to begin lowering its altitude in preparation for a final descent to the lunar surface as soon as Sept. 6.

“We are landing at a place where nobody else has gone,” said K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization.

Indian scientists are targeting landing of the Chandrayaan 2 lander at an unexplored site located on the near side of the moon at 70.9 degrees south latitude, closer to the moon’s south pole than any previous mission. The landing module is named Vikram for Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space program, and will deploy the Pragyan rover, named for the Sanskrit word for “wisdom.”

** Russian Proton-M rocket launched the Spektr-RG astrophysical x-ray observatory from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan: Russian Proton-M launches Spektr-RG observatory –

** An Arianespace Vega rocket failed during the launch of UAE’s Falcon Eye-1 earth observation satellite:

The $400M payout for the failure will be a real blow to the space insurance industry.

** A Russian Soyuz 2-1v launched four military satellites with little prior public notification: Soyuz 2-1v conduts surprise military launch –

** Virgin Orbit executes successful drop test of LauncherOne rocket from the “Cosmic Girl” 747 carrier aircraft:

** EXOS Aerospace posts videos from recent launch in which the SARGE reusable rocket suffered a guidance glitch shortly after liftoff but still manages to return for a landing via paraglider:

** China’s Galactic Energy Aerospace Technology, Ltd wants to challenge SpaceX in reusable rocketry: Chinese rocket start-up aims at ‘SpaceX dominance’ –

Beijing-based private rocket start-up Galactic Energy Aerospace Technology Co has made a breakthrough in its “Pallas” medium liquid-propellant rocket, a step closer to the firm’s goal of forging a Chinese version of the Falcon 9 rocket manufactured by U.S. spaceflight company SpaceX.

The gas generator, which helps provide thrust to the rocket’s 40-ton engine that is powered by reusable liquid oxygen and kerosene, has completed seven ignition tests over the weekend, with an accumulated operation time of 380 seconds, according to Galactic Energy. The maximum single operation time lasted 100 seconds.

The company started developing the main rocket engine for the Pallas in December 2018, and it is the first Chinese rocket with engines that run on reusable liquid oxygen and kerosene.

Galactic Energy’s products include the Pallas family of medium-sized liquid rockets, named Pallas, and small solid rockets named Ceres.

The Ceres-1 is aimed at the low-orbit commercial small satellite market and is expected to fly in March 2020. The Pallas-1 is expected to launch in December 2022.

** Spaceflight takes advantage of two cargo spacecraft and the ISS to put six smallsats into their designated orbits : SEOPS Mission Preview – Spaceflight

Spaceflight is all about getting to space, in the most cost effective and reliable way. That’s why we’re so excited about our upcoming SEOPS-1 mission. This will be a ground breaker in several ways. We’ll be launching six cubesats for three different customers, using two different launch vehicles, the International Space Station and several intrepid astronauts.

The International Space Station (ISS) uses two vehicles for resupplying the astronauts: Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus, which launches on their Antares launch vehicle, and SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule, which launches using their Falcon 9. Both Cygnus and Dragon berth with the ISS and offload supplies and experiments. After completing its on-station mission, Dragon is deberthed from the ISS, it re-enters and returns back to Earth for reuse. Cygnus is loaded with trash and disposables from the ISS, is deberthed, conducts extended mission operations, and ultimately deorbits and burns up in the atmosphere. For this mission, during the extended mission operations of Cygnus it will serve as a deployment platform for our customers’ cubesats.

SEOPS-1 diagram
Spaceflight’s SEOPS-1 mission will fly satellites to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon and then a Northrop Grumman Cygnus will deploy the satellites into orbit.

** College teams win grants from the Base11 Space Challenge to support their continued participation in the competition to send a liquid-fuel powered rocket to 100 kilometers: Next Generation of Rocket Scientists Blasts Off at Caltech – Pasadena Now

The Base 11 Space Challenge is a $1 million-plus prize for a student-led university team that successfully designs, builds, and launches a liquid-propelled, single-stage rocket to the edge of outer space—an altitude of 100 kilometers, known as “the Karman Line”—by December 30, 2021.

When the presentations  were over, and the judging completed, Landon Taylor, chairman and CEO, Base 11, announced the winners. The Michigan Aeronautical Science Association (MASA) from the University of Michigan, lifted off with the day’s biggest prize, a $25,000 check to continue their work and competition in the Base 11 challenge.

Winning $15,000 for their work was Concordia University in Montreal. The third place prize of $10,000 went to Portland State University.

See also Base 11 Space Challenge | HeroX.

** Blue Origin‘s BE-4 engine will power the New Glenn rocket, which will be used to put satellites into orbit and send the Blue Moon spacecraft to the lunar surface: Blue Origin’s Next Rocket Engine Could Send the First Settlers to the Moon – IEEE Spectrum

Blue Origin is also working on two other engines, including one (the BE-7) destined for the company’s Blue Moon lunar lander. But the BE-4 is the largest of the three, designed to generate as much as 2,400 kilonewtons of thrust at sea level. That’s far less than the 6,770 kN provided by each of the five F-1 engines that sent men to the moon a half century ago. Even so, 2,400 kN is quite respectable for a single engine, which in multiples can produce more than enough oomph for the missions envisioned. For comparison, the Russian RD-171M engine provides a thrust of 7,257 kN, and Rocketdyne’s RS-68A, which powers the Delta IV launch vehicle, can generate 3,137 kN.

** SpaceX:

Update: An item about the preparations for the Starhopper hop: SpaceX wiggles Starhopper’s Raptor engine, tests parts ahead of hover test debut – Teslarati

*** Raptor engine installed in StarhopperSpaceX ships Raptor to Texas for first Starhopper hover tests after fixing vibration bugs – Teslarati. A static test firing is expected on Monday. On Tuesday there could be the first attempt to lift off the ground and move a short distance sideways.

There will be live video of the Starhopper activity:

** Latest on the construction of the 2nd demo Starship at the company’s Cocoa Beach facilities: SpaceX’s Florida Starship shown off in aerial footage as Texas prototype grows rapidly – Teslarati

** Falcon 9 launch of the CRS-18 Cargo Dragon is set for July 21st at 7:35 pm EDT (2335 GMT) from Cape Canaveral AFB.

** CRS-18 Falcon 9 will re-use the booster from the launch of the the CRS-17 mission on May 4th.

** Launch of the Amos 17 communications satellite for Spacecom Ltd. of Israel appears to be set for sometime in early August. Not clear yet what booster the Amos-17 mission will use: SpaceX fan spots sooty Falcon 9 Block 5 booster at Kennedy Space Center – Teslarati.

Misc. items:

In a bizarre turn of events, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has offered harsh criticism of SpaceX’s response to Crew Dragon’s April 20th explosion, suffered just prior to a static fire test of its eight Super Draco abort engines.

The problem? The NASA administrator’s criticism explicitly contradicts multiple comments made by other NASA officials, the director of the entire Commercial Crew Program, and SpaceX itself. Lest all three of the above sources were either blatant lies or deeply incorrect, it appears that Bridenstine is – intentionally or accidentally – falsely maligning SpaceX and keeping the criticism entirely focused on just one of the two Commercial Crew partners. The reality is that his initial comments were misinterpreted, but an accurate interpretation is just as unflattering.


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