A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport (find previous roundups here):
*** Elon Musk presents plans for rapid development of Starship/Super Heavy Booster space transport system while standing in front of first assembled Starship demonstrator on Saturday evening.
Some of the highlights from his remarks:
- Starships Mk.1 and Mk.2 (Cocoa Beach, Florida) are just the first vehicles off the assembly lines.
- Expect to complete a new vehicle every few months
- Each will incorporate lessons learned from the previous vehicles.
- Switching from composite to stainless steel brought multiple advantages:
- Enables fast prototyping
- Excellent strength and thermal properties
- Much cheaper than composites
- Mk.1 to fly to 20 kilometers in 1 to 2 months from now.
- Doesn’t expect big regulatory problems with test flights and landings.
- Before assembling first Super Heavy Booster (SH), need to ramp-up Raptor engine production.
- Need about 30 engines for first SH.
- SS Mk 4 or Mk.5 with first SH could launch to orbit by next year
- Full reusability with rapid turnaround will enable multiple test flights in a short period.
- Will fly crews within a year or so.
- Will fly SS/SH from both Boca Chica and Kennedy Space Center launch sites.
*** Sampling of articles and responses to the presentation:
- Elon Musk, Man of Steel, reveals his stainless Starship | Ars Technica
- SpaceX CEO Elon Musk provides update on Starship program – NASASpaceFlight.com
- Elon Musk updates status of SpaceX’s Starship – Spaceflight Now
- Elon Musk outlines SpaceX’s Starship plans, aiming to reach orbit in six months and then fly people – CNBC
- Elon Musk debuts SpaceX’s first Starship, aims for orbit in six months | collectSPACE
- Musk’s speech: Starship is coming on fast! | Behind The Black
- SpaceX debuts Starship’s new Super Heavy booster design – Teslarati
- Tesla on Mars addressed by Elon Musk in SpaceX’s Starship Q&A session – Teslarati
- Elon Musk says SpaceX’s Mars rocket will be cheaper than he once thought. Here’s why – CNN – Video interview
*** Time lapse of stacking of the Starship Mk.1 – LabPadre:
*** Scott Manley’s view of the presentation:
Reports leading up to the presentation:
- SpaceX’s Starship Mk1 halves mated to reach full stack height in Boca Chica, TX – Teslarati
- SpaceX’s Starship to grow in height as workers prepare to stack its top section – Teslarati
- SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shows off Starship’s 3 Raptor engines in best photos yet – Teslarati
*** A drone view of the Cocoa Beach facility where the Starship Mk.2 demonstrator is under construction:
*** Elon believes the Starships will enable large space settlements on the Moon and Mars. Some of the artwork shown:
*** SpaceX Crew Dragon developments:
- SpaceX aims to ship two new Crew Dragon spacecraft to Florida in the next two months – Teslarati + Elon Musk interview with Rachel Crane – CNN
Musk estimated that Crew Dragon capsule 03 (C203) and its expendable trunk would be sent from SpaceX’s Hawthorne, CA factory to Cape Canaveral, FL as early as October. Crew Dragon capsule C204 is then expected to follow around one month later, arriving in Florida for preflight preparation as early as November
SpaceX has applied for an FCC Special Temporary Authority license to authorize rocket communications during what is likely Crew Dragon’s In-Flight Abort (IFA) test, now scheduled to occur no earlier than November 23rd.
In line with recent comments from SpaceX executives, a November or December In-Flight Abort test would almost certainly preclude Crew Dragon from launching with astronauts in 2019, pushing the Demo-2 mission into the Q1 2020. Nevertheless, it would serve as a good sign that Crew Dragon remains on track if SpaceX can complete the critical abort test – meant to prove that Dragon can whisk astronauts away from a failing rocket at any point during launch – before the year is out.
NASA and SpaceX conducted a formal verification of the company’s emergency escape, or egress, system at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida on Sept. 18, 2019. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Shannon Walker participated in the exercise to verify the crew can safely and swiftly evacuate from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency before liftoff of SpaceX’s first crewed flight test, called Demo-2.
** Japanese HTV-8 launched last week docked with the ISS on Saturday:
- U.S. Astronauts Captured Japanese Cargo Spacecraft at 7:12 a.m. EDT – Space Station/NASA
- HTV delivers batteries and experiments to space station – Spaceflight Now
** Latest Ariane 6 news: Ariane 6’s core engine completes qualification tests – ESA
Ariane 6, Europe’s next-generation launch vehicle, has passed another key development milestone. Its Vulcain 2.1 liquid-fuelled engine has now completed its qualification testing, which means combined tests can now begin.
The main stage Vulcain 2.1 engine will deliver 135 t of thrust to propel Ariane 6 in the first eight minutes of flight up to an altitude of 200 km.
** Russia launches 2nd Soyuz in two days. Puts missile warning satellite into low earth orbit: Soyuz 2-1B launches latest Tundra satellite – NASASpaceFlight.com
Russia’s Soyuz rocket has made its second launch in less than twenty-four hours, delivering a missile detection satellite to orbit Thursday in a military launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Soyuz lifted off at 10:46 Moscow Time (07:46 UTC), placing the Tundra satellite into its planned orbit with the aid of a Fregat upper stage.
Tundra plays a significant part in Russia’s national security arrangements, monitoring the Earth for potentially hostile missile launches so the Russian Government can react as necessary. It forms part of the Edinaya Kosmicheskaya Sistema (EKS) or Unified Space System which is being introduced to replace the earlier Oko system that Russia inherited from the Soviet Union. Thursday’s launch deployed the third such satellite.
** Reports of the death of Stratolaunch appear to have been exaggerated: Stratolaunch rebuilds team for world’s biggest plane – GeekWire
Representatives of the Allen family’s Vulcan holding company have insisted that Stratolaunch remains operational. LinkedIn listings indicate that Jean Floyd is still president and CEO, although three company vice presidents left in July.
Now Stratolaunch is posting 11 job openings, including listings for two test pilots. “As a test pilot on the history-making Stratolaunch Carrier Aircraft, the world’s largest-wingspan aircraft, you will have the opportunity to accomplish new milestones in aviation,” the company says.
** Rocket Lab prepares launch facility at Wallops Island, Virginia: Rocket Lab Readies Launch Complex 2 for Electron Launches From U.S. Soil | Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab, the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, and Virginia Space at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), have completed a major construction milestone ahead of the first Electron launch from U.S. soil. The recent installation of the launch platform at Rocket Lab’s second launch site, Launch Complex 2, marks one of the final steps in the construction of the new pad being built by the Rocket Lab and Virginia Space teams.
Construction on Launch Complex 2, located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Virginia, began in February 2019. In the few months since then, more than 1,400 cubic yards of concrete have been poured to create the pad on which Electron’s launch platform is mounted. The 66 ton launch platform was installed into its final position this month, ready for the 44 foot, 7.6 ton strongback to be mounted to the platform in coming weeks. Both the launch platform and strongback were built by Steel America in Norfolk, Virginia. The launch site largely mirrors Rocket Lab’s first launch location, Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, where the Electron launch vehicle transports horizontally down the launch ramp, and then is lifted vertically by the strongback to be ready for launch.
In the coming weeks, work will focus on final build and integration of various launch pad systems that will process, load propellant into, and launch Electron. The final step in the completion of the site is integration and test activities, which is expected to be complete by December 2019. Once the site is complete, work begins on testing, commissioning, and integration at the launch site in preparation for the first Electron launch from U.S. soil in early 2020.
- Blue Origin: Over 2 more New Shepard rocket tests before first people – CNBC
- Blue Origin readies space tests but may delay flying people until 2020 – GeekWire
The company is developing the New Shepard rocket system for its space tourism business. Blue Origin is still hoping to fly people on New Shepard this year, although the company noted in a meeting with reporters on Tuesday that 2019 is quickly coming to an end, so those plans may move to 2020.
Blue Origin also filed an application for its next test flight with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday. The filing is “for Flight #12 of the New Shepard space launch booster and capsule” and has an operational window beginning in November. To be clear, that’s not necessarily when Blue Origin will next launch New Shepard, but rather the earliest time they could with federal approvals.