Space transport roundup – Apr.18.2020

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

** NASA and SpaceX set target date of May 27th for first launch of astronauts to the ISS on a Crew Dragon vehicle:

A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32 p.m. EDT on May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission. The specific duration of the mission is to be determined.

As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.

“The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoes final processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in preparation for the Demo-2 launch with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Crew Dragon will carry Behnken and Hurley atop a Falcon 9 rocket, returning crew launches to the space station from U.S. soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011.” Credit: SpaceX

Scenes of NASA astronauts heading to the pad:

Find more SpaceX items below

** Virgin Orbit completes final major test before first LauncherOne flight – Cryogenic Captive Carry Test:

Our recent cryogenic (LN2) captive carry flight represented the most realistic rehearsal of our launch system and procedures to date, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart had a few words to share as we ready ourselves for an orbital launch demonstration next.

See also Virgin Orbit completes final major test before first LauncherOne flight –

** Virgin Galactic is holding online STEM sessions regarding various aspects of suborbital spaceflight. This one dealt with how a suborbital spaceplane is designed.

Join this #ScienceWithVirginGalactic Spacechat as we explain how to design a spaceship so that it can successfully travel to space and back.

** More about catching an Electron booster. Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut, interviews Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck: How To Catch A Rocket From Space With A Helicopter (Peter Beck Interview, April 2020)

Rocket Lab has been making some impressive progress on their efforts to recover the booster stage of their Electron Rockets. I caught up with Rocket Lab CEO and Founder, Peter Beck, and got a run down on some of the exciting things they’re working on! Need a rundown on how Rocket Lab will catch a rocket with a parachute and a helicopter, and why it hasn’t been done before? I’ve got you covered! –…

Rocket Lab is winning payload contracts:

** Launcher Space to test engines for smallsat rocket at NASA Stennis facility: Launcher to test engines at Stennis –

Small launch vehicle startup Launcher has signed an agreement with the Stennis Space Center to test engines at the Mississippi facility.

The New York-based company signed a Space Act Agreement with Stennis at the end of March to use the E-1 test stand at the center for tests of its engine, coincidentally named E-2, it is developing for a small launch vehicle.

The type of engines that will be tested at Stennis:

** Germany’s Isar Aerospace raises $17M and opens new facility near Munich for production of the Spectrum rocket for smallsat launch: Isar Aerospace Expands Into Next-Generation Rocket Production Facilities Near Munich – SpaceWatch.Global

The largely automated produced products that will be integrated at the new facilities are designed for scalability to meet the growing demand for satellite constellation deployment. “With our new premises, we are increasing the space available to our company for engineering, production and testing to over 15,000 square metres”, says Daniel Metzler, CEO of Isar Aerospace. “In-house production is an important milestone on the way to our launch vehicle’s maiden flight within the next two years”.

Isar recently arranged to test the engines for the Spectrum at the Esrange facility in northern Sweden: SSC signs contract with Isar Aerospace – SSC – Swedish Space Corporation.

Swedish Space Corporation, SSC, and German space tech company Isar Aerospace have signed a long-term contract for testing of a new generation of European rocket engines for minilaunchers at Esrange Space Center in Sweden. The agreement includes a rocket stand for vertical tests and the agreement can be extended to include rocket stage tests with multiple rocket engines.

Illustration of a Spectrum rocket in flight. Credits: Isar Aerospace

The liquid fueled Aquila engine was developed in-house:  Isar Aerospace: High-performance rocket engines – ESA

The company team builds upon extensive experience in rocket engine and sounding rocket design and testing from Technical University Munich.

Now hosted at ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) Bavaria, Isar Aerospace is currently are working on developing high-performance technologies powered by a combination of hydrocarbon mixtures and liquid oxygen which could make conventional, toxic rocket fuels obsolete.

** Firefly cites progress towards first launch of the Alpha rocket this summer:

** The economics of reusable rocket vehicles continues to be disputed by management of companies looking for excuses not to pay for the development of their own reusable rockets.

** Northrop Grumman MEV-1 module provides station-keeping propulsion for an Intelsat satellite in geostationary orbit. The satellite is out of propellants for its own propulsion system so the MEV-1 attached itself to the satellites nozzle and will control it for about 5 years. Today the satellite was officially returned to full operation. Intelsat 901 Satellite Returns to Service Using Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle | Northrop Grumman

Intelsat (NYSE: I) today announced that Intelsat 901 has returned to service following the successful docking with the first Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) from Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, on February 25 – the first time that two commercial spacecraft docked in geostationary orbit.

Since the February rendezvous, MEV-1 has assumed navigation of the combined spacecraft stack reducing its inclination by 1.6° and relocating IS-901 to its new orbital location. Intelsat then transitioned roughly 30 of its commercial and government customers to the satellite on April 2. The transition of service took approximately six hours. IS-901 is now operating at the 332.5°E orbital slot and providing full service to Intelsat customers.

Intelsat views life-extension services, like MEV technology, as a cost-effective and efficient way to minimize service disruptions, enhance the overall flexibility of its satellite fleet and better support the evolving needs of its customers.

** Briefs:

** SpaceX:

** SpaceX test fired a Falcon 9 on the pad today in preparation for the launch of 60 more Starlink satellites on April 23rd: SpaceX test-fires rocket for Starlink launch next week – Spaceflight Now

**** Starship

****** SpaceX has made rapid progress towards assembly of the SN4 Starship prototype. The stacking of all but the nosecone has been completed. Dates for closing the road that passes near the launch pad have been filed. If the vehicle survives the tank pressure tests, low altitude flights will follow.

Segments for the SN5 vehicle have been spotted in construction as well.

The following videos mark the day-by-day developments in the SN4 and SN5 construction:

****** April 13 – SpaceX Boca Chica – Preparing Launch Site for Starship SN4 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Preparations to ready SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch pad for the arrival of Starship SN4 are continuing as the engine section prepares for stacking. Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** April 14 – SpaceX Boca Chica – Delivery Day in prep for Starship SN4 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Delivery Day at SpaceX Boca Chica, a very windy day too, possibly a reason there wasn’t the completion of Starship SN4 stacking today, but the stage is being set. Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** April 15 – SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN4 Engine Section in the VAB for Stacking – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship SN4 Aft and Engine Section lifted into the VAB/Windbreak for final stacking operations at SpaceX Boca Chica. Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** April 15 – SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN5 Production – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Bonus video concentrating on the early stages of Starship SN5’s production, including three bulkheads and barrel sections in preparation at SpaceX Boca Chica. Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal).

** April 17 – SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN4 Stacked – SN5 Progress – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship SN4 has been stacked inside the SpaceX Boca Chica VAB/Windbreak, while Starship SN5’s top bulkhead stepped outside to watch. Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

**** Video reports on Starship:

[ Update: New Marcus House report:


****** Marcus House: SpaceX Starship SN4 News, Goodbye Cargo Dragon 1 and Rocket Lab Mid-Air Recovery Demo

Today we cover SpaceX Starship SN4 News. We say goodbye to Cargo Dragon 1 and check out Rocket Lab Mid-Air Recovery Demo. After last week’s loss of the SN3 Starship we’ve been super surprised to see the SN4 come together very rapidly with many of the ship segments s needed for the new build. They really are pumping out these Starship prototypes now faster than what I had even expected. Along with that, we say goodbye to the very last Dragon 1 capsule with its return from the CRS-20 mission. We witnessed some amazing new unseen footage from SpaceX released fresh this week. Just incredible how close this landing was from 2017. Then on top of all that Rocketlab pulls out all the stops with this amazing mid-air recovery demonstration with an Electron test tank and two sleek-looking helicopters capturing it right out of the air.

****** mic of orion: SpaceX Starship SN 4 Progressing Fast

Remarkable progress on Starship SN-4, dayus after accident with Starship SNM-3 is something that demands respect. Starshi SN-04 isn’t even in testingh phase work on Starship SN-5 has already started with pre-fabricated rings, sections of the future fuel tanks and even engines will be ready

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