Space transport roundup – May.14.2020

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

** Two launches from Cape Canaveral this weekendBack-to-back launches scheduled from Cape Canaveral this weekend – Spaceflight Now

**** Saturday, May 16th, a ULA Atlas V rocket will take a X-37B spaceplane into orbit for the 6th mission of the program. (See previous ST Roundup for info on the X-37B mission.) The window for the launch is between 8:24-10:53 am EDT (1224-1453 GMT).

****  Sunday, May 17th, a SpaceX Falcon 9 will put 60 more Starlink satellites into orbit. Over 400 Starlink satellite are already in space. Liftoff is set for 0753 GMT (3:53 a.m. EDT). A storm brewing in the Atlantic, however, may cause a postponement since it could prevent the recovery of the booster, which will be on its 5th flight. To maintain the desired high flight rate for the Starlink program, the boosters need to be reused multiple times. A test firing of the booster engines was successfully carried out yesterday.

Find more SpaceX items below

** China launches Kuaizhou-1A solid fueled rocket with two smallsats (93 kg each )for the Xingyun communications and data relay constellation. The constellation will eventually reach 80 satellites.

** China’s new crew capsule lands successfully a few days after launch on the new Long March 5B:

The core stage made an uncontrolled reentry a week after the launch:

**** Recovery operations for China’s new crewed spacecraft – SciNews/CCTV/CNSA

China’s new-generation crewed spacecraft successfully landed at the Dongfeng landing site, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, on 8 May 2020, at 05:49 UTC (13:49 local time). During the two days and 19 hours in orbit, the uncrewed spacecraft carried out a series of space science and technology experiments. The spacecraft was transported to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for inspection and verification work. Credit:China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA)

**** Spacecraft Return Capsule Structure Intact as Designed after Return to Earth: Designer – CCTV

The structure of the return capsule of the trial version of China’s new-generation manned spaceship was intact as designed after it landed on the Earth on Friday, a designer of the spaceship said on Saturday.

** History of Chinese spaceplane designs and projects:

** Rocket Lab updates:

** Firefly updates:

** Briefs:

** SpaceX:

** Counting down to launch of astronauts to the ISS on SpaceX Crew Dragon.  Preparations are speeding up for the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) demonstration launch for crew transport to the Station. Liftoff is set for May 27th at

**** Try docking the Crew Dragon to the ISS with the SPACEX – ISS Docking Simulator. Scott Manley gives a tutorial on the simulator:

How To Dock With ISS in SpaceX’s Free Dragon Docking Simulator

In advance of the DM-2 Flight carrying crew to the ISS using the first privately designed and built spacecraft SpaceX have released a cut down version of the Dragon simulator which allows you to fly the docking sequence with the ISS. While this is only a cut down version of a full Dragon 2 simulation, it does give you a chance to see how the user interface design is radically different from existing space vehicles. It also gives you a chance to fly recklessly around a simulated ISS, since they won’t let you do that in real life.

The astronauts in flight-suits practice docking in the full scale hardware simulator: Crew Dragon Displays and Crew Spacesuits Ready for Mission to Space Station – Commercial Crew Program

Astronauts practice docking the Dragon. Credits: SpaceX/NASA.

**** Promotional video from NASA on the upcoming commercial crew mission: NASA and SpaceX prepare to #LaunchAmerica – NASA

Together with SpaceX, NASA will return human spaceflight to American soil after nearly a decade. SpaceX will launch people into space for the first time ever with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board Crew Dragon, which will dock to the International Space Station.
Prepare to
#LaunchAmerica on May 27:

**** Commercial Crew was a huge bargain and Orion/SLS a boondoggle of historic proportions: NASA: SpaceX, Boeing building spacecraft for astronauts saved up to $30 billion – CNBC

**** Planet Labs takes advantage of Rideshare  on Starlink launches: SkySats 16-21 to Launch on SpaceX Falcon 9 Rideshare Missions – Planet Lab

Planet is set to launch six more SkySat satellites (SkySats 16-21) into Low Earth Orbit this summer, rounding out the fleet of 15 SkySats already in operation.

SkySats 1-15 operate in Sun Synchronous Orbits, a specific type of Low Earth Orbit that results in the Earth’s surface always being illuminated by the Sun at the same angle when the satellite is capturing imagery. About half of the SkySats currently pass overhead in a morning crossing plane, while the other half moves in an afternoon crossing plane, so together they provide twice-daily coverage of select areas on a global scale. SkySats 16-21 will operate at a “mid-inclination” orbit of 53 degrees, complimenting the Sun Synchronous fleet, and will offer more targeted coverage and raw image capacity in key geographic regions.

The six SkySats will be evenly split across two launches on SpaceX’s Falcon 9, a two-stage reusable rocket that has successfully flown satellites and cargo over 80 times to orbit. They will do so as rideshare payloads on launches of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites.

SkySats 16-18 will launch on SpaceX’s ninth Starlink mission, targeted for launch in the next month, and SkySats 19-21 will launch later this summer. Both missions will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida.

The launch of SkySats 16-21, as well as the development of our enhanced 50 cm imagery (to be made available to customers this year)—are just some examples of Planet’s continuously evolving industry-leading geospatial offerings. Stay tuned to the Pulse blog for more launch and product updates in the coming months.

See also:

**** Each generation of SpaceX rockets pushes the technology to the next level: Technology Progress = Iterations Times Progress Between Iterations –

Elon Musk has noted that progress in any given technology is simply # of iterations * progress between iterations. SpaceX has successfully completed six major iterations and is on its seventh rocket version iteration. SpaceX has existed for eighteen years and has shortened its development time from six years to about two years.

This is why SpaceX is crushing all of its competitors like United Launch Alliance, China, Russia, Ariane and Blue Origin.

**** Starship

****** SpaceX continues to maintain a very high level of activity at Boca Chica Beach. The Raptor engine used during test firings last week was removed from the SN4 Starship prototype. A subsequent pressure test on the SN4 using cryogenic propellants successfully reached 7.5 atmospheres, which should provide sufficient margin for uncrewed test flights. (8.5 atm will need to be reached to provide the safety margin desired for crew flights.) A different Raptor engine was then installed on SN4. Test firings are expected to start within a day or two. If these go well, there could be a 150 meter hop a few days after that.

This diagram for the cryogenic tank tests shows the liquid methane fuel in green and the liquid oxygen in blue:

Meanwhile, the SN5 is nearly fully stacked. It’s expected that it will get a nosecone on top and the reentry fins on the side. Assuming it passes tank pressure and engine test firing tests with three engines installed, the SN5 might launch to as high as 20 km. SpaceX’s first high-flying, triple-Raptor Starship is almost finished – Teslarati.

Components for SN6 are also in production. Each prototype is expected to have improvements and enhancements over the previous one. Eventually, a SN# will go to orbit and then attempt a reentry and landing.

Here are Elon’s goals for transport costs once operational Starships are flying:

***** Views of Boca Chica activities:

****** May 7: Starship SN-4 Slow Motion 4K Static Fire [May 7, 2020] – Everyday Astronaut on Youtube

SpaceX successfully static fired their Starship SN-4 prototype using fuel from the header tank (secondary smaller tank inside the main tank). Everything looked good and SpaceX will continue to push to prepare for the 150m hop of this vehicle. Thanks to Rachel and Gene from @SPadre [@ spacepadreisle on twitter] for shooting this for us!

****** May 8: SpaceX Releases Massive LN2 Possible Cryo Test Abort – LabPadre – YouTube

05.09.2020 After an initial possible ambient test. SpaceX unexpectedly released a massive amount of LN2 from the tank farm. Some are speculating that a valve may have ruptured. Waiting on Elon’s response. All images are explicitly owned by LabPadre Media.

****** May 9: SpaceX Boca Chica – Full Drive-Past Entire Facility – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Mary takes you on an updated drive past the growing facility at SpaceX Boca Chica, from the launch site to the production facility. Very useful to get one’s bearings. No fancy editing or timelapse, just a fateful of Boca Chica, which most of you will appreciate! Video from Mary (@BocaChicaGal)

****** May 10: 4K SpaceX Starship SN4 Passes Cryo Test! – LabPadre – YouTube

05.09.2020 A 4K segment of SpaceX Boca Chica crossing another milestone with Starship SN4 passing a cryogenic pressure test at 7.5 Bar according to Elon Musk on Twitter. At this point in the test the top starts to frost rather quickly. All images are explicitly owned by LabPadre Media.

****** May 11: SpaceX Boca Chica – Raptor delivery for Starship SN4 ahead of 150 meter hop – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

A new Raptor engine for Starship SN4 has arrived at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch site ahead of the final static fire test, set for no earlier than Tuesday. If all goes well with the static fire, SN4 is expected to hop to 150 meters. Video and Photos from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** May 11:  SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN4, 5, 6 and Nosecones Everywhere – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

As Starship SN4 prepares for another Static Fire test, SN5 is in the VAB and SN6 sections wait their turn at SpaceX Boca Chica. Meanwhile, yet another new nosecone has been spotted. Video and Photos from Mary (@BocaChicaGal).

****** May 12: SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN5 Stacked – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Another Starship is born at SpaceX Boca Chica as SN5 is stacked inside the High Bay. Meanwhile, SN4 is in final preparations for a Static Fire test with the SN20 Raptor on Wednesday. Video and Photos from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

** May 14: SpaceX Boca Chica – Final preps underway ahead of Starship SN4’s third static fire – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Final preparations were underway at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch site on Wednesday ahead of the third Raptor static fire on Starship SN4. The static fire is slated to occur on Thursday afternoon. Video and Photos from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

** Webcast rocket reports:

**** SpaceX Starship SN4 Prepares for flight, Crew Dragon Demo 2 & Crew-1 updates, Chinese Long March 5BMarcus House

Starship completed its static fires with the SN4 Starship and we are looking onwards now to the potential 150 metre flight test. The SN5 and SN6 Starship continues construction as well so loads going on again in BocaChica Texas. More news, talks, and footage related to the first crewed flight for SpaceX coming up in a few weeks with the Crew Dragon Demo 2 mission including a great talk from Gwynne Shotwell. This week also saw the first successful flight of the Chinese Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket. Then a few other great little snippets of news as well.

**** SpaceX Starship Updates – A History Of Starship EvolutionWhat about it!?

**** SpaceX Starship Updates – NASA Perseverance Rover Getting Ready For MarsWhat about it!?

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