Space transport roundup – Mar.27.2020

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

** Starship prototype SN4 heads for low altitude test flight after passing propellant tank pressure testing. According to Elon Musk, a single Raptor engine will be attached to SN4 this week. After a static firing test on the pad, they will attempt a 150 meter hop:

For details, see:

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** Major wing components for Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser delivered:

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, uncrated both wings for its Dream Chaser spaceplane this month at the company’s Louisville, Colorado production facility. The wings’ arrival kicks off the much-anticipated integration phase of a beautiful and critical differentiator for Dream Chaser, the world’s only spaceplane owned by a private company and under contract with NASA.

“The wings are here and now we truly have butterflies in anticipation of this integration phase for Dream Chaser,” said SNC President Eren Ozmen. “Our spaceplane looks and functions unlike anything else in space – more technologically advanced but with all the heritage of the space shuttle program in its design. Dream Chaser’s first flight will be a soaring moment for all of us.”

The arrival kicks off the integration of the complex Wing Deployment System (WDS) as part of the continued assembly and integration of the vehicle. With their innovative folding design, the wings are stowed in the fairing ahead of launch. After the launch vehicle separates, the WDS deploys the wings and locks them into place. Dream Chaser’s steeply angled wings function as stabilizers for the lift generated by the body of the vehicle.

“The wings for Dream Chaser presented an interesting design challenge,” said Dream Chaser program director John Curry. “Not only must they survive in low-Earth orbit like a satellite, but they need to be operational in Earth’s atmosphere, like an aircraft.” Just like the structural body for Dream Chaser, the wings were manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Texas, a subcontractor to SNC, and are single bonded composite structures. This state-of-the-art technology saves weight without compromising strength and stiffness.

Dream Chaser is under contract with NASA for at least six cargo resupply and return service missions to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. The Dream Chaser and attached Shooting Star transport vehicle can carry up to 12,000 pounds of supplies and other cargo, and returns delicate science to Earth with a gentle runway landing.

Dream Chaser wings. Credits: SNC

See also: Dream Chaser receives her wings ahead of flying to the ISS –

** Russian Soyuz rocket sends Progress cargo vehicle to the ISS on April 24th from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Rendezvous and docking happened just four hours after liftoff:

The unpiloted Russian ISS Progress 75 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 24 (April 25, Kazakhstan time) atop a Soyuz 2.1a booster, bound on a fast-track, two-orbit trip to deliver some three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the residents of the International Space Station. Less than four hours after launch, the Progress executed an automated docking to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module where it will remain until December.

** Virgin Galactic continues a series of STEM tutorials with an episode on “Testing a spaceship” – Virgin Galactic – YouTube

Join this #ScienceWithVirginGalactic Spacechat as we explain how we test a spaceship to get it ready for commercial service.

** Interview with Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck:

Welcome to IN DEPTH Episode 8 of What about it!? I’ve had a conversation with Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab. We talked about Electrons mid-air recovery, Photon and why it will change the Small-Sat business and about his plans for the future, including a personal goal to explore Venus to find out, if life could exist in our neighbours atmosphere!

** “An Overview of Firefly Aerospace, Vehicles and Capabilities” – Eric Salwan, Firefly Aerospace – FISO presentation: Slides (pdf)

And another update here: This Rocket Company Is Staying Calm, Carrying On With Fresh Contract And A New Launch Date – Forbes

As of this week, there are roughly 300 employees in Firefly, and more hires are coming quickly on the production side, to prepare for the first flight. “The secret to success in this business is staying focused,” Markusic said of Firefly’s efforts to send its first rocket aloft, which has experienced a few delays along the way. (But as any space company will point out, hardware development is difficult and costly, especially when novel technology is involved.)

There have been challenges in developing the Alpha rocket, whose novel features include propellant tanks and structures are built with carbon fiber composites, to reduce cracks and leaks while storing supercooled liquid oxygen. Estimates for the first launch date have been pushed back a few times, and a fire broke out during testing of a rocket stage in January.

But the payoff should be worth it in the long run, chief revenue officer Brad Schneider said during the same interview. Firefly projects that once the rocket starts flying, the company should see a “ramp” in revenues as money flows in from paying customers. Providing the test launch in 2020 goes to plan, revenues should start flowing faster in 2021 and accelerate in 2022, getting to a break even point relatively quickly after the upfront $165 million cost in development, preparing for the first flight and building the first two vehicles.

** Scott Manley reports on the latest Iranian launch of a satellite, achieving orbit successfully for the first time:

Earlier this week Iran made their first successful satellite launch in a long time using a new rocket design named ‘Qased’. What’s most striking is that this is a miliatry launch vehicle using new solid propellent motor which is more advanced than any they’ve flow before, and it might just be the first of many developments of the technology.

** The details of the BPM100 bi-propellant engine designed by the Copenhagen Suborbitals team are illustrated in this snazzy animation:

Follow developments of the engine and the Spica rocket, for which it is intended, on the Copenhagen Suborbitals blog.

** Briefs:


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** SpaceX:

** Falcon 9 launched another batch of 60 Starlink satellites last week. First stage and both halves of the fairing nosecone were recovered. The number of Starlink satellites in operation now exceeds 400.

Over the weekend, the booster returned to Port Canaveral following its fourth flight:

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And here is a video report on the return of the two ships with the fairings, which were scooped from the ocean. No attempt was made this time to catch the fairing shells in nets.

Join NSF’s Julia Bergeron (@Julia_bergeron) for an overview of the SpaceX Fleet recovery operations in Port Canaveral, including the return of the fairings from the seventh Starlink launch and JRTI update.

See also:

** Beautiful video imagery of the latest Falcon launchCosmic Perspective – YouTube:

Watch as we place cameras and microphones at SpaceX launchpad 39A during coverage of Starlink 6. This behind-the-scenes episode mixes liftoff footage, audio recordings and music to share some of the beauty and excitement of what it was like to be there, on the ground, documenting. We also get an incredible opportunity to share unique views of Falcon 9 from remote autonomous camera position and close-in telescopic zooms. I can’t believe one of our high-speed cameras caught those birds in flight!! Learn and see more from SpaceX Starlink 6:…

** The culprit behind the premature engine shutdown during the previous Starlink mission appears to have been a maintenance mistake rather than a breakdown in the engine’s hardware: This was the first time a F9 booster had flown a fifth time.

** Preparations intensifying for first crewed Dragon mission to the ISS, currently set for May 27th.

And preparations are underway for the first operational  Crew mission after this final test:

** Falcon Heavy will serve as a multi-satellite launcher for military payloads: SpaceX’s next Falcon Heavy launch on track to carry multiple military satellites – Teslararti

According to one of the US Space Force 44 (USSF-44) mission’s satellite providers, SpaceX’s next Falcon Heavy launch remains on track for late 2020 and will apparently be carrying more than one military satellite to orbit.

** Starship

**** Elon Musk sees orbital Starship/Super Heavy becoming operational in a couple of years. The system will enable new and enhanced capabilities such as multiple large in-space telescopes.

**** Here is a series of videos showing activities that led up to last night’s successful tanking tests for SN4 plus scenes of assembly of SN5:

****** April 23: Starship prototype SN4 rolled to the launch padNASASpaceflight – YouTube

****** April 25: SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship Nosecone Stacking – SN4 Preps – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

While Starship SN4 continues preps for its test campaign at the launch site, a nosecone stacking operation was conducted at the launch site. See Elon’s tweet for SN allocation context:… Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal).

****** April 25: SpaceX Boca Chica – SN5 Bulkhead Flipped – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

While Starship SN4 pre-test work continues at the Boca Chica launch site, preparations for SN5 stacking continues with the customary flipping of a bulkhead. Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

***** April.27: 4K SpaceX SN4 Cryogenic Test Time Lapse – LabPadre – YouTube

** Webcast rocket reports:

**** Marcus House: SpaceX Starship SN4 Pressure Test, Crew Dragon Demo-2 and Starlink News – April.25.2020

**** What about it? SpaceX Starship Updates – Starship SN4 Passes Cryo Test – April.27.2020

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