Space transport roundup – Dec.3.2019

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

[ Update Dec.4: Launch postponed due to high winds:

Update: The SpaceX webcast is active for the CRS-19 mission to the ISS (press kit):

And the pre-launch briefing held on Tuesday Dec.3rd:

An explanation was given regarding why the F9 booster is to land on a sea platform rather than return to the pad at Cape Canaveral: SpaceX’s surprise Falcon 9 drone ship landing explained ahead of Cargo Dragon launch – Teslarati.


** A SpaceX Falcon 9 is set to launch a Cargo Dragon to the ISS on Wednesday at 12:51 pm EST from Cape Canaveral. SpaceX Targeting Wednesday, Dec. 4, for CRS-19 Launch – SpaceX/NASA. The schedule:

    • 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3 – NASA Social, What’s on Board science briefing highlighting research taking place on CRS-19
    • 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3 – Prelaunch news conference from Kennedy with representatives from the International Space Station Program Science Office, SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing
    • 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4 – Launch countdown coverage begins

The first stage booster will aim to land on a platform at sea rather than return to the Cape landing pad: SpaceX Falcon 9 launch and landing imminent as drone ship heads to sea – Teslarati

In short, the ~350-km-downrange landing plan suggests that this Cargo Dragon launch may have a much smaller propellant margin than essentially every similar mission preceding it. This could be explained in a few ways. Maybe after Falcon 9 B1050’s surprise landing failure, SpaceX decided that all new Falcon 9 boosters will attempt drone ship landings after their first flight, minimizing the risk to Cape Canaveral in the event of a CRS-16 repeat. Another possibility, Crew Dragon capsule C205 – scheduled to support the spacecraft’s In-Flight Abort (IFA) test late this month or early next – may still be close to the Cape’s Landing Zones, another reason to avoid even the slightest chance of a catastrophic Falcon landing failure.

The official weather forecast gives a 90% chance of acceptable conditions at the time of liftoff.

CRS-19 coverage:

SpaceX may fit in four Falcon 9 launches this month counting CRS-19: After a slower launch year—by its standards—SpaceX plans a busy December | Ars Technica

After [CRFS-19], SpaceX should return to the launch pad in the middle of the month for its next launch, which will send the JCSAT 18/Kacific 1 communications satellite into space. This commercial mission is currently slated for no earlier than December 15, also from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. If the flight occurs on time, it will require a relatively quick turnaround at the launch pad.

On top of that, there are potentially two more missions before the end of the year—although the schedule for each may slip into January. SpaceX has not yet announced a launch date for the In-Flight Abort test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, a dramatic test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program that will see the Dragon pull rapidly away from the rocket. SpaceX employees are still working toward a launch by the end of December for the test.

SpaceX also may launch its third batch of 60 Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit before the end of this month, although the company has not announced an official launch date for this mission either.

More SpaceX items below.

** Uncrewed test flight of Boeing Starliner slips a couple of days: Boeing Uncrewed Flight Test Launch Date Update – Commercial Crew Program/NASA

The launch of Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, now is targeted for 6:59 a.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 19. NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) agreed to target the new date to allow ULA sufficient time to resolve an issue with the rocket’s purge air supply. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch atop a ULA Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

** Scott Manley reviews Chinese launcher systems:

China is now the number one nation in terms of rocket launches, with most of its launchers tracing their design heritage back to the Dong Feng 5 ICBM. This includes the Long March 2, 3 & 4 – all propelled by YF-20 family Engines burning UDMH & NTO The Newer Long March 5,6 &7 all use new cryogenic propulsion systems. Long March 11 is a solid rocket based system.

China looks to keep up its recent high launch rate: China to continue world-leading launch rate in 2020 –

** Update on the Rocket Lab Electron launch that was postponed from last week:

** Leo Aerospace is developing a high-altitude balloon Launch System: The goal is to offer low cost orbital and suborbital launch services. In addition, the platform can be used for long-loiter high-altitude applications.

Leo Aerospace Regulus high altitude balloon launch system.

Regulus Orbital is Leo Aerospace’s premier high-altitude orbital launch platform.  A fully and rapidly reusable craft, Regulus requires minimal refurbishment over lifetime operations.  Autonomous flight control provides optimized flight capabilities in a range of weather and mission envelopes. Additionally, its on-board, autonomous, command and control infrastructure continuously assesses system health.  Regulus is equipped with a rotational control system, comprised of a series of bipropellant thrusters.  This system is capable of controlling the entire platform’s yaw and roll profiles.  Regulus Orbital is designed for a typical mission of placing 25 kg to 550 km sun-synchronous orbit but can service a range of missions with payload capacity up to 57 kg with no fixed ground infrastructure.

See also : Space Startup Aims to Launch Cubesats on Balloon-Lofted Rockets |

** Update on construction  of second SpaceShipTwo from Virgin Galactic:

** SpaceX:

[ Update: More about the situation with the Starship assembly operations in Florida:


*** A major reduction in Starship assembly activity Florida is underway according to Felix Schlang in his SpaceX news video shown below.

However, Michael Sheetz of CNBC reports that the Florida Starship activities are paused rather than ended:

Some components from the  Florida site are being shipped to Boca Chica:

*** Views of Boca Chica activities:

NASASpaceflight – Dec.3.2019

A check around SpaceX Boca Chica – December 2, 2019
Features: Ongoing site preparation, more deliveries and Big Yellow gets dismantled.
Footage and photos from Mary (@bocachicagal) for NSF.

LabPadre – Dec.3.2019:

It appears that SpaceX is breaking ground for their new launch control center here at Boca Chica, Texas. Fast paced progress ahead for the push of MK-3.  Video Credit: Maria Pointer

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