Space transport roundup – Aug.28.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport t (find previous roundups here):

** Uncrewed test of new Soyuz spacecraft successfully docks with ISS on 2nd try:

** Overview of Reaction Engines and the development of the SABRE propulsion system: Reaction Engines and High-Speed Propulsion”,  Adam Dissel, Reaction Engines Inc. – FISO – August 7, 2019

Slides from Dissels talk: Reaction Engines and High-Speed Propulsion – FISO (pdf).

SABRE Engine Cross Section

** Reusable X-37B spaceplane exceeds previous record for time in orbit:

The classified U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane program winged its way to a new milestone in its hush-hush current mission. The craft set a new long-duration record in circling the Earth – eclipsing a previous long-duration flight of 717 days, 20 hours and 42 minutes.

Also tagged as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) – 5 mission, this currently orbiting space plane was lofted into low Earth orbit back on September 7, 2017 – speeding around the planet now for over 1 year and 11 months.

** Update on LightSail 2: LightSail 2 Marks 1 Month of Solar Sailing | The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft is celebrating 1 month of solar sailing in Earth orbit. Since deploying its aluminized Mylar sail on 23 July 2019, the spacecraft has spent the majority of its time turning towards the Sun each orbit to get a slight push from solar photons. This has raised LightSail 2’s apogee, or orbital high point around the Earth, by 7.2 kilometers—all without a drop of conventional fuel.

** Some perspective on Vector Launch going into hibernation: Revectoring the small launch vehicle industry – The Space Review

Vector’s apparently sudden turn of fortune raised alarms in the space industry. If a company as well-funded as Vector could run into problems so serious that it had to lay off nearly its entire workforce, what hope was there for the crop of smaller startups much earlier along in both technical development and fundraising? Was the long-awaited shakeout of the industry finally at hand?

Maybe not. What may have caused problems for Vector was not anything specific to the small launch vehicle industry—too many vehicles chasing too few customers—but rather more generic problems that could affect any company in the space industry, or any other field.

Those in the space industry familiar with what was going on at Vector (but who asked to speak anonymously) offered a picture of a company that suffered from poor management. That included heated disputes among the company’s leadership that led to high turnover among executives, those sources claimed.

** German satellite builder OHB SE is developing a smallsat launcher: German Space Firm Enters Rocket Business Shaken Up by Elon Musk – Bloomberg

Maiden flight of the planned rocket is set for late 2021, OHB Chief Executive Officer Marco Fuchs said in an interview. The company has a team of about 35 employees in Augsburg, southern Germany, working on a so-called mini launcher designed to bring small payloads into orbit and with a low-cost approach, the CEO said. Key components of the rocket have already been developed and tested.

“To build our own rocket is a logical step for OHB,” Fuchs said in an interview at the company’s headquarters in Bremen, Germany. “We will become our own client and launch our own satellites.”

** Progress towards all-Ukraine-made Tsyklon-4 upper stage with RD-861K engine: Ukraine resumes testing of the RD-861K engine –

The RD-861K engine was originally intended for the ill-fated Tsyklon-4 project developed and funded jointly by Ukraine and Brazil. After the collapse of the venture around 2015, the RD-861K was re-purposed for the commercial Tsyklon-4M rocket, which KB Yuzhnoe hopes to develop in Ukraine and launch from a yet-to-be built spaceport in Canada. There are also reports that China has eyed the RD-861K for potential applications on one of its own future space launchers.

A test of a complete upper stage required considerable bravery by some on the project team:

The first live firing of the fully assembled third stage for the Tsyklon-4 rocket (Article 7000 No. 1) took place on August 23, 2019, at the static facility in Dnipro, Ukraine, according to KB Yuzhnoe. On August 25, KB Yuzhnoe announced that the booster had successfully fired a total of five times during the trials and the design bureau promised more details about the tests upon the full completion of the firing program. According to witnesses in the vicinity of the test facility, the roar of the firing was heard in the area as late as the evening of August 24. KB Yuzhnoe dedicated the test to the Ukrainian Independence day celebrated on August 24.

An industry source said that in order to meet the deadline, specialists had to perform a risky fix of the fuel leak on the partially loaded stage, because the prior draining of propellant would require to postpone the firing. (The hypergolic fuel used in the Tsyklon-4 rocket can theoretically self-ignite even in contact with rusty metal). Fortunately, all the repairs were completed successfully.

** SpaceX:

*** Starhopper made its highest and final flight last night. See videos posted here earlier. Some additional images and videos starting with a one from Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut, showing multiple camera views.

SpaceX successfully hopped their StarShip prototype vehicle known as StarHopper with serial number 6 Raptor Engine. The vehicle flew to about 150 meters (492 feet) up and translated over to the landing pad about 100 meters away (328 feet). The object flying off at the end was a COPV [composite overwrapped pressure vessel ] (no that wasn’t supposed to happen).

A review of the test by Scott Manley:

More articles and commentary on the flight:

Plus some pre-flight items :

*** If Starship succeeds, access to the Moon and Mars becomes vastly more affordable as seen in a “map of Starship delivery costs”:  [OC] Cislunar space & Mars shipping costs with Starship : spacex

*** SpaceX loses one GEO satellite customer but gains another:

*** A USAF payload slips from December into January: SpaceX Falcon 9’s next major US Air Force launch slips into early 2020 ahead of busy Q4 – Teslarati

According to an August 20th update from the US Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), SpaceX’s next dedicated USAF launch – the third completed GPS III spacecraft – has slipped one month and is now scheduled no earlier than (NET) January 2020.

Known as GPS III Space Vehicle 03 (SV03), SpaceX’s next US military launch will follow just a few months after United Launch Alliance (ULA) is set to launch GPS III SV02, scheduled to lift off at 9am EDT, August 22nd. SpaceX kicked off the lengthy GPS III launch campaign in December 2018, successfully placing the ~3900 kg (8600 lb) communications and geolocation spacecraft into a transfer orbit. The mission also marked SpaceX’s first intentionally expendable Falcon 9 Block 5 launch, a trend that may or may not continue with the company’s next GPS launch.

*** Cargo Dragon returned on Monday from ISS for a successful splashdown off the coast of California:

*** An International Docking Adapter (IDA-3) was installed during a spacewalk last week. The CRS-18 Cargo Dragon delivered the adapter, which will allow the new crew vehicles from SpaceX and Boeing to dock to the station. The : NASA installs SpaceX-delivered docking adapter for Crew Dragon, Boeing Starliner missions – Teslarati


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