Space transport roundup – Oct.26.2019

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

[ Update 2: Unfortunately, the SARGE appeared to once again suffer guidance problems and failed to achieve the target altitude.  The booster apparently hit the ground hard when it’s parachute did not deploy. At least one parachute was seen, however, and this may have been nosecone with the payloads. No details released from the company yet.

Update: EXOS Aerospace is launching the SARGE rocket today from Spaceport America. Find updates at The webcast:

More info at Exos ready for fourth launch of SARGE suborbital rocket –


** More about the lunar landing and ascent system that the Blue Origin team aims to build for NASA:

** And more about the status of Blue’s New Glenn rocket: Blue Origin teases first New Glenn rocket prototype at Blue Moon lander event – Teslarati

During his IAC presentation, Bezos revealed a video of what is almost certainly the first full-scale prototype hardware of Blue Origin’s reusable New Glenn rocket. In the clip, a massive carbon-composite payload fairing half is moved inside an even larger curing oven located on Blue Origin’s Cape Canaveral, FL campus, offering an incredibly rare glimpse inside the company’s purported New Glenn factory.

** Update on Skyrora launch company in the UK:

Skyrora is building a new small sat launcher that is environmentally conscious, possibly reusable and unlike anything else on the market. This week we’re joined by Skyrora Lead Engineer Robin Hague to talk about what they are building and when we can see it fly!

** Arianespace offering room for multiple payloads on a lunar mission: Arianespace targets 2023 for lunar Ariane 6 rideshare mission –

European launch provider Arianespace is planning a rideshare mission to the moon in 2023 as an early step toward increasing Europe’s involvement in lunar activity, CEO Stéphane Israël said Oct. 22.

Israël, speaking at the 70th International Astronautical Congress here, said the rideshare mission will be able to deliver 8,500 kilograms into a lunar transfer orbit. Orbiters and/or landers would reach the moon three days after liftoff, he said

** China developing two-stage reusable spaceplane launch system: Nation makes breakthrough in space plane project –

China recently made an important breakthrough in developing its own space plane, a genre of aircraft that is expected to become a crucial weapon in the future, a state-owned research institute said.

The First Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Aerospace and Aerodynamics successfully conducted a wind tunnel experiment, in which the second-stage aircraft freely detached from the first-stage aircraft of a two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) space plane, according to a statement the academy released on its WeChat account on Monday.

** More about the South Korean launch company Perigee Aerospace mentioned in a recent roundup here: Backed by Samsung, South Korean startup Perigee aims for 2020 maiden launch –

A little-known Korean startup backed by Samsung is preparing to launch a small orbital rocket in July. 

Perigee Aerospace of Daejeon, South Korea, has raised around $12 million from Samsung Venture Investments, LB Investment and others to develop Blue Whale 1, a small launcher capable of carrying 50 kilograms to a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit, CEO Yoon Shin said in an interview. 

Shin said Perigee Aerospace has had sufficient funding to develop the very small rocket, allowing the company to operate in stealth mode until getting within a year of launch. 

Blue Whale-1 - Peregrine Aerospace
Blue Whale-1 – Peregrine Aerospace

** An update on the plans  of Maritime Launch Services to launch Ukrainian rockets from Nova Scotia : Nova Scotia Destined Cyclone 4M Rocket for Maritime Launch Services Passes Another Test – SpaceQ

[ MLS CEO Steven ] Matier said the Cyclone 4M upper stage tests were completed in August. The first tests were for the 7000 series qualification profile on August 23 which was then followed by a second full duration burn on August 30.

In a press release Matier also said “the full-duration burn of our C4M upper stage brings us closer to introducing this medium-class launcher into commercial operation in 2021 from our spaceport in Canada. The C4M, with well-proven rocket technology heritage over 220 successful launches, will cater to our small-GEO, constellation and rideshare customers worldwide.”

NanoRacks plans to use  a Cyclone 4M to test conversions of an upper stage into a habitat: Agreement to Re-Use C4M Upper Stages for In-Orbit Space Outposts – NanoRacks

“The proven heritage of the C4M launch family, with over 220 launches to date, will provide Nanoracks with plenty of opportunities to choose the appropriate missions on which to test and develop the proposed upper stage conversions into resilient automated habitats, and one day human habitats,” says Steve Matier, Maritime Launch CEO. “Canada has a reputation for providing in-space robotics for the International Space Station, such as the CANADARM and the Dextre programs. With Nanoracks, we hope to see this country’s legacy expanding further into economically viable space habitats, and to organize the related launch missions to bring equipment and supplies to these new working structures.”

“It’s Nanoracks vision to re-purpose upper stages of launch vehicles and convert them into Outposts. We envision populating the solar system with cost-efficient platforms, that can serve as hotels, research parks, fuel depots, storage centers and more,” says Nanoracks CEO Jeffrey Manber. “We are proving time and time again that there are new ways to look at how we explore deep space, and that we need to think creatively, but work cost-efficiently. This agreement with Maritime Launch will provide us with the in-orbit test bench second stage articles to do exactly that, and to grow our space industry even further.”

** Virgin Orbit adds deep space capability to the LauncherOne rocket: Virgin Orbit to add extra rocket stage to LauncherOne for interplanetary missions –

Virgin Orbit, while preparing for the first flight of its LauncherOne smallsat rocket, is in the process of choosing an engine for a three-stage variant that would be capable of sending payloads to other planets. 

John Fuller, Virgin Orbit advanced concepts director, said the company is deciding between three “highly energetic third stage” options for LauncherOne that would enable the rocket to launch up to 50 kilograms to Mars or 70 kilograms to Venus. The “Exploration 3-Stage Variant” of LauncherOne would also have the ability to launch around 100 kilograms to the moon or toward Lagrange points, he said. 

** The world is full of rocket startups: How many small launch vehicles are being developed? Too many to track! –

Of the 148 small launch vehicles on a popular industry watch list, about 40 efforts “are likely dead but the watch list continues to grow,” Carlos Niederstrasser, a Northrop Grumman master systems engineer, said at the 2019 International Astronautical Congress here.

The problem for Niederstrasser and anyone trying to keep up with the market is that the list continues to grow. “Every time I kill off one [launch vehicle], two more show up,” he said.

** SpaceX

*** SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell interviewed at the IAC 2019.  She gave an “aspirational” timetable for Starship:

  • First Starship to orbit within a year
  • Starship cargo mission to the Moon by 2022. She said this was would provide supplies for those who will come in 2024. She might have been referring to a Starship landing in 2024 but I think she was actually talking about NASA’s target of putting people on the Moon in 2024.
  • Flight with people around the moon in 2023

Highlights from the two videos that she showed: SpaceX’s Starship facilities, Raptor testing, and more shown off in new video – Teslarati.

*** Shotwell also talks about competitors at another venue: SpaceX Shotwell calls out Blue Origin, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, OneWeb –

Baron pointed out that Bezos, as the world’s wealthiest man, has more than enough money, asking Shotwell, “So why hasn’t he done this?”

“I think engineers think better when they’re pushed hardest to do great things in a very short period of time, with very few resources. Not when you have twenty years,” Shotwell said. “I don’t think there’s a motivation or a drive there.”

Both ventures have remained private — one of the factors Shotwell credits for SpaceX’s success. But she believes Blue Origin has not taken on nearly as much risk.

“They’ve got a ton of money, and they’re not doing a lot,” Shotwell said.

*** Starlink to open for business by late 2020. Reusable rockets enable a high launch rate:

SpaceX is confident it can start offering broadband service in the United States via its Starlink constellation in mid-2020, the company’s president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said Oct. 22.

Getting there will require the company to launch six to eight batches of satellites, Shotwell told reporters during a media roundtable. SpaceX also has to finish the design and engineering of the user terminals, which is not a minor challenge, Shotwell acknowledged.

*** SpaceX Cargo Dragon scheduled for December trip to the ISS: NASA Invites Media to Next SpaceX Space Station Cargo Launch | NASA

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida no earlier than Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 12:48 p.m. EST.

*** Crucial Crew Dragon systems tests and flights coming soon:

But amongst the success have also been setbacks. SpaceX has been working two primary technical challenges over the past year. These include a major test stand anomaly and continued problems with the spacecraft’s parachutes.

… the company must redo the static fire test. A successful static fire of the abort sequence will help to verify that the redesigned system is safe for crewed spaceflight.

It is understood that the test could occur as soon as early November.

An upgraded version of the parachutes, referred to as “Mk3”, must also go through a rigorous testing program.

Therefore, Bridenstine cautioned that while the hardware may be ready by the end of 2019, the qualification campaign will likely last longer. At this point in time, the best-case scenario would see a crewed Demo-2 test flight in the first quarter of 2020, according to Musk and Bridenstine.

*** SpaceX aims for end of year for first Starship Mk.1 flight: SpaceX says Starship Mk1 will test ‘skydiver’ landing before the end of 2019 – Teslarati

A senior SpaceX director says that the Starship Mk1 prototype could lift off for the first time before the end of 2019, a flight debut SpaceX hopes will successfully demonstrate the next-generation spacecraft’s exotic ‘skydiver’ landing method.

*** Sights and sounds from Boca Chica:

*** Boca Chica facilities weathered storm with Tesla Powerpack backups: Tesla Energy backup helps SpaceX Starship Mk1 face down tornadoes, power outages – Teslarati

SpaceX’s South Texas Starship facilities and Mk1 prototype fell under threat of damage when stormy weather – including multiple tornadoes and heavy rain – impacted the area in the early hours of October 21st.

With a healthy serving of luck, SpaceX’s Boca Chica campus managed to escape largely unscathed, but much of the surrounding area lost power after high winds knocked down numerous utility poles. Thankfully, one of the first things SpaceX installed in Boca Chica, Texas was a large Tesla solar array and multiple Tesla Powerpacks.

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