Space transport roundup – July.26.2019

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

** SpaceX:

Starhopper on first flight as seen by drone
The Starhopper begins moving sideways during its first untethered flight as seen by a drone.

*** Starhopper makes first successful hop within a fiery storm of flame, smoke, and steam. Late Thursday evening, SpaceX’s Starhopper, a Raptor methane engine powered prototype Starship, lifted off the ground untethered for the first time and moved sideways a short distance on the flat pad. The high swirl of smoke and steam hid most of the vehicle during its brief flight. Elon Musk this morning, however, released a video showing a view of the engine from an onboard camera during the hop. Plus he provided a video from a drone where one can see much more of the vehicle during the flight than from the ground videos.

This view from the ground shows an overlay for the location of the vehicle within the cloud:

A grass fire was set off by the exhaust and was still burning this morning. However, local firefighters seem to have it under control.

Elon also said, there will be “200m hop in a week or two”.

Now that the Starhopper has made its first flight, he will soon give a presentation on the latest design and development plans for the Super Heavy Booster/Starship system.

*** A previous hop attempt on Wednesday was quickly aborted after the engine fired: SpaceX’s Starhopper aborts first free flight after igniting Raptor engine, catching fire [updated] – Teslarati

*** Falcon 9 launches Cargo Dragon and booster lands back at the Cape. The Dragon is on its third flight and the first stage booster was on its second. The Dragon is scheduled to berth to the ISS on Saturday morning.

The SpaceX webcast:

A nice view of the booster from separation to landing (via

** The Dragon is wearing some ceramic tiles to test them for use as heat shields on the Starship. Tiles appear to be the latest approach to protecting the Starship during reentry. Previously, the plan was to pressure feed water or liquid methane through tiny holes in the steel body panels to soak up the heat to protect the vehicle. The passive tile approach seems more robust to flaws than an active transpiration system.  SpaceX testing ceramic Starship heat shield tiles on flight-proven CRS-18 Cargo Dragon – Teslarati

SpaceX announced during its CRS-18 Cargo Dragon webcast that the twice-flown orbital spacecraft will feature a handful of ceramic Starship heat shield tiles, meant to flight-test a critical component of the next-generation SpaceX spacecraft.

If Cargo Dragon capsule C108 continues its successful record of orbital missions and recoveries, SpaceX will be able to recover Starship’s prototype ceramic heat shield tiles perfectly intact and thus have access to orbit- and reentry-tested hardware that should provide invaluable data for Starship. It’s unclear where exactly ceramic heat shielding would be used on Starship or if this means that the spacecraft’s transpirationally-cooled steel tiles did not pass muster, but CEO Elon Musk will hopefully provide additional details in a presentation later this month or early next.

** Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 cubesat deployed the sail and began the sunlight propulsion test: LightSail 2 Successfully Deploys Solar Sail | The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft has successfully deployed the large, aluminized Mylar sail it will use to raise its orbit solely with sunlight.

Flight controllers at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California commanded the spacecraft to deploy its solar sails [on July 23rd] at about 11:47 PDT (18:47 UTC). Images captured during the deployment sequence and downloaded today show the 32-square-meter sail, which is about the size of a boxing ring, deploying as the spacecraft flew south of the continental United States.

More about the project:

** iSpace becomes first commercial Chinese company to put satellites into orbit. The company Beijing Interstellar Glory Space Technology Ltd., which also goes by the shorter name iSpace, put 2 satellites into low earth orbit with the four-stage Hyperbola 1 rocket on Thursday. The lower three stages uses solid-fueled motors while the final stage has a liquid fueled engine..


Beijing-based startup iSpace successfully sent two satellites into the designated orbits with their own rocket on Thursday. It is the first company to complete such a mission in the commercial space industry at a domestic level. The SQX-1 Y1 is the 20.8-meter-tall four-stage solid-propellant carrier rocket carrying two satellites. The rocket blasted off at 1:00 p.m. BJT from a supporting pad in the large desert at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, northwest China. With a liftoff weight of 31 metric tonnes and a diameter of 1.4 meters, the rocket can carry a payload of 260kg into a sun-synchronous orbit 500 km above the Earth. Established in 2015, the startup iSpace is China’s first private company to get a license to develop carrier rockets.

** China launches three remote sensing satellites.

** Chinese companies developing methane rocket engines:

    • LandSpace
      • China’s liquid oxygen-methane rocket engine completes key test – :
        80-tonne thrust liquid oxygen-methane engine has completed a full-thrust run test with a duration of 100 seconds, the developer said Tuesday.The engine, named TQ-12, was independently developed by the private rocket company LandSpace and has the third-highest thrust level among liquid oxygen-methane engines globally.
    • Kyushu Yunjian (Beijing) Space Technology Co.
      • Kyushu Yunjian “Lingyun” liquid oxygen methane engine completed the hot test – (Google Translate) – Original: 九州云箭.
        As the first liquid oxygen methane engine in China that truly realizes reusable, multiple start and deep variable thrust capability, the “Lingyun” engine has low-cost rapid maintenance and multiple start-up capability, large-scale change of engine during the development process. A series of bold and difficult explorations and attempts have been made in the adjustment technology of thrust, control technology and the adaptability technology of key assemblies. The successful completion of this round of hot test marks that the Kyushu Yunjian “Lingyun” engine has achieved the pumping type in China. Several effective breakthroughs in the bottleneck technology of cryogenic liquid rocket engines.

Another day, another methalox engine test for Chinese NewSpace. Jiuzhou Yunjian (九州云箭, est. 2017) testing deep throttling and multiple starts with its ‘Lingyun’ 10-tonne variable thrust liquid oxygen-methane engine.
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) July 23, 2019

For frequent updates on Chinese space developments, see Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) / Twitter.



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