Space transport roundup – Nov.20.2019

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

[ Update 4: A statement from SpaceX indicates that they were pushing the pressure extremely high as a test of the tank design since they had decided it would never fly.

Sounds like the Mk.2 in Florida may also not fly. Perhaps it will also be used for ground tests like this one.

See also

Update 3: Elon says they will learn from this and move on to Mk.3, which will be much closer to the actual flight design:

Update 2: During a pressure test of the Starship Mk.1 propulsion module today in Boca Chica, the top bulkhead blew off:

Will be interesting to see if they repair it or build a whole new propulsion module. Regardless, no Mk.1 test flight this year for sure. A flight of the Mk.2 in Florida may now happen before a demo Starship flight in Texas.

Update: NASA posted a video of the recent SpaceX Crew Dragon static abort firing test:


** China launched a two Kuaizhou-1A rockets in less than a week. The latest  one carried

two multimedia satellites into space on Sunday after the successful launch of a remote sensing satellite on Wednesday, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The two satellites have already entered the pre-set orbit by the time of release. The rocket, carrying the satellites named KL-α-A, KL-α-B, blasted off from northwestern China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 18:00 p.m. BJT. The two satellites atop were developed by the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites of Chinese Academy of Sciences to conduct Ka-band communication technology test for German customers.

More at:

** Japan’s Space One commercial rocket venture begins construction of a new launch facility: Japan’s 1st private-sector rocket launch site – NHK WORLD/JAPAN News

Space One is building the launch site in Kushimoto town, Wakayama Prefecture.

Space One is a joint venture funded by four companies — Canon Electronics, IHI Aerospace, Shimizu Corporation and Development Bank of Japan.

** Aerojet Rocketdyne demos a big electric propulsion system that will be used to move NASA’s Gateway lunar space station: Advanced Electric Propulsion Thruster for NASA’s Gateway Achieves Full Power Demonstration | Aerojet Rocketdyne

Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA recently demonstrated an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) thruster at full power for the first time, achieving an important program milestone.

Aerojet Rocketdyne-developed AEPS thrusters are slated to be used on the Power and Propulsion Element of NASA’s Gateway, the agency’s orbiting lunar outpost for robotic and human exploration operations in deep space.

The state-of-the-art AEPS Hall thruster operated at 12.5 kilowatts (kW) as part of its final conditioning sequence during testing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The thruster demonstrated stable operation at power levels ranging from 4.2 kW to 12.5 kW. Full electric propulsion thruster string integration will take place early next year.

‘Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System thruster demonstrates full power operation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.”

** Relativity Space promotes the Terran-1 rocket, which the company plans to start launching in 2021.

** Orbex shows off the company’s factory where the Prime rockets will be made:

Orbex, a U.K.-based company that hopes to start launching rockets from Scotland in the coming years, has revealed images of the facility where it will build its upcoming Prime launch vehicle.

Located in the town of Forres near Inverness in Scotland, the company’s facility will be used to construct each 17-meter long Prime rocket, designed to loft small satellites into polar orbit from the early 2020s.

Inside, the company says it has included a number of features to produce a lighter and more environmentally-friendly rocket. This includes, with regards to the former, a large carbon-fiber winding machine to build the exterior structure of the two-stage rocket, which the company says is among the largest in Europe.

See also

“Orbex has installed one of the largest high-speed automated carbon fibre winding machines in Europe in its Scottish factory, as well as a full size ‘autoclave’. This equipment allows engineers to have complete control over the design and pace of manufacture of all carbon fibre tanks, including the main stage tanks, which can be wound in a matter of hours. Orbex fuel tanks use specialized materials, including graphene, and specially developed processing techniques to ensure linerless compatibility with liquid oxygen.” – Orbex

** An update on Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser cargo vehicle development:

At the Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, Sierra Nevada Corporation unveiled the name for Dream Chaser’s cargo module element as well as provided an update on the status of the cargo craft as it prepares for its first flight in 2021.

Also discussed at the event were potential other applications for Dream Chaser, including but not limited to a Gateway logistics cargo vehicle, a standalone space station, and a crew transportation vehicle.

Today’s update came as Sierra Nevada continues to prepare its cargo version of Dream Chaser for its first voyage to the International Space Station in “Fall 2021,” according to Steve Lindsey – Vice President, Space Exploration Systems Space Systems for Sierra Nevada Corporation.

A test version of Dream Chaser’s “Shooting Star” cargo module on display at KSC this week. The blue panel is where a solar panel can be located. The gray structures on the sides represent where cargo modules can be attached.

Here is a video of a Sierra Nevada briefing held back in October 15th on the occasion of the arrival of the primary structure of the first Dream Chaser at a SNC facility in Colorado where they will  assemble the vehicle: Dream Chaser Primary Structure Arrives in Colorado – SNC

** The Space Show – Mon, 11/18/2019Joe Carroll discussed “tethers, artificial gravity, humans and long duration spaceflight, living in space, on the Moon and Mars plus much more”.

See also Carroll’s slides shown at IAC 2019: Do Humans Have a Future in Moon or Mars Gravity 2019 IAC rev Nov14 no video.pptx.

** How SpinLaunch will swing payloads into space: Flinging Small Satellites Into Orbit on the Cheap – Wired/Spaceport America

Jonathan Yaney and his colleagues at SpinLaunch, a startup based in Long Beach, California, believe they’ve found the answer. Their nearly fuel-free system, known as a mass accelerator, will use a giant vacuum-sealed centrifuge to spin a payload to more than 4,000 mph. Once released, the payload will go screaming through the atmosphere, coasting nearly 30 vertical miles before propelling itself the rest of the way to orbit by means of a small rocket. The company already has a working prototype; Yaney calls it “science fiction stuff.”

Eventually, Yaney claims, SpinLaunch will be able to fling several 200-pound payloads into space every day, at a cost of less than half a million dollars each— five or 10 times cheaper than the competition. Human passengers are out of the question; the accelerator would turn their bodies to mush. Even satellites must be specially hardened to survive the ride. But that’s a small concession, Yaney argues, when you’re talking about putting together, say, a constellation of internet satellites in a matter of days rather than months.

** OHB of Germany recently  joined the crowded ranks of smallsat launcher developers: OHB defends self-funded launcher effort –

OHB is best known for building Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites, but the company also supplies many of the structures and tanks for the Ariane 5 and upcoming Ariane 6 rockets. 

This year OHB revealed plans to develop its own rocket, targeting the small satellite market around the range Rocket Lab’s Electron addresses today. 

OHB hopes to have a small launcher capable of sending 200 kilograms to low Earth orbit conduct a first flight by the end of 2021, Fuchs said in an interview at Space Tech Expo Europe here. The German prime contractor established an entity called Rocket Factory Augsburg to spearhead the small launcher program.

** SpaceX:

*** Falcon 9 booster used for the recent Starlink launch returns from the sea: SpaceX Falcon 9 booster returns to port on a drone ship for the first time in six months – Teslarati

*** The legs were soon removed and the booster laid on its transporter:

[ Update: The guys at capture a video of the booster on its way to the hangar:


*** Starship program:

**** Testing of the Starship Mk1 began this week in preparation for its first flight from Boca Chica Beach, Texas: SpaceX’s Starship comes to life for the first time in lead-up to launch debut – Teslarati

An anthropomorphization sometimes used to describe the venting launch vehicles often exhibit while during and after fueling, Starship Mk1’s so-called ‘breaths’ occurred around 5:59 pm CST (23:59 UTC). Those first vents came after roughly an hour or two spent performing several different pressurization cycles, observable due to the fact that Starship’s stainless steel tanks visibly smoothed out as pressure increased.

Due to the typical distances Starship is viewed from and the nature of the mirror-finished stainless steel SpaceX has chosen to build the next-generation launch vehicle out of, the exterior of Starship prototypes can produce a reflection that looks bumpy and disjointed. This has lead many a layperson to incorrectly assume that SpaceX’s Starship prototypes are thus shoddily built. In reality, viewed from afar, the tiniest hint of surface heterogeneity on a mirror can dramatically change what is reflected on its surface.

Even at the thinness of Starship Mk1’s liquid oxygen and methane tanks, stainless steel is still extremely strong, but pressurizing the vehicle’s tanks can clearly counteract a significant portion of the slight imperfections in their curvature.

**** Additional views of Starship Mk1 activities at Boca Chica from the past few days

Following Monday’s initial testing, engineers entered Starship Mk1 for checks ahead of the cryoproofing test objectives potentially later this week. Long video (down to 12 mins thanks to timelapse, lots of viewpoints, with special guests: Starship Internal Ladder and Concrete Smoother guy. Learn about Starship Mk1: UPDATES:… ARTICLES:… Video and photos from Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF.

Starship Mk1’s first cryo loading tests are just around the corner as workers prepare the test vehicle by flushing out the lines and pressurizing the commodity tanks. Venting IS normal (or “norminal” as SpaceX would say. 🙂 Learn about Starship Mk1: UPDATES:… ARTICLES:… Lots of videos (some time-lapse) and Photos by Mary (@bocachicagal) for

**** And view of the Starship Mk2 in Cocoa Beach, Florida

Some delicate adjustments to the propellant bulkhead:

**** Yusaku Maezawa gets a souvenir from the Starhopper.  The cost of development of the Starships has been helped by a down payment from Yusaku Maezawa for a trip on a Starship flight around the Moon with a group of artist friends. Elon Musk gifts SpaceX Starship angel investor a piece of Starhopper history – Teslarati

**** NASA will accept bids from SpaceX to use a Starship for lunar missions:

A SpaceX Starship on the Moon. Credits: SpaceX via NASA PR

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