Space transport roundup – June.10.2020

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

** SpaceX to launch another batch of Starlink satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket this week, the second such launch in June. Liftoff at Cape Canaveral is set for 5:42 am EDT (0942 GMT). Here is a video from SpaceX showing the fairings separating from the Falcon 9 on the recent Starlink launch:

Find more about other SpaceX activities below

** Rocket Lab Electron set to launch on Thursday June 11:. The liftoff is set for a window between 12:43-2:32 a.m. EDT ( 0443-0632 GMT)

See also:

** Update on development of ULA Vulcan launch system: Vulcan on track as ULA eyes early-2021 test flight to the Moon –

United Launch Alliance has announced their Vulcan rocket is progressing towards its maiden launch as soon as early-2021. While an exact launch target isn’t known yet, the mission will use a newly-built Launch Umbilical Tower while sharing Atlas V’s Vertical Integration Facility and SLC-41 launch pad in Florida.

** Update on ESA’s reusable Prometheus engine: ESA moves ahead on low-cost reusable rocket engine – ESA

ESA’s Prometheus is the precursor of ultra-low-cost rocket propulsion that is flexible enough to fit a fleet of new launch vehicles for any mission and will be potentially reusable.

At the Space19+ Council meeting in Seville, Spain last November, ESA received full funding to bring the current Prometheus engine design to a technical maturity suitable for industry. Developed by ArianeGroup, Prometheus is now seen as key in the effort to prepare competitive future European access to space.

By applying a design-to-cost approach to manufacturing Prometheus, ESA aims to lower the cost of production by a factor of ten of the current main stage Ariane 5 Vulcain 2 engine.

Rendering of the reusable methane fueled Promethus engine.

** Sierra Nevada posts snapshots from Dream Chaser assembly:

** Briefs:


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** SpaceX:

**** SpaceX aiming for four launches in June:

  • June 3:  Successful launch of Starlink 7
  • June 12 – Starlink 8 + Planet Labs SkySats 16-18
  • June 24 – Starlink 9 + Two Blacksky/LeoStella satellites
  • June 30 – USAF GPS-III-SV03

Acceleration of the Starlink deployments is very important for the company and two or more Starlink flights per month are likely to become the norm: Evaluating SpaceX’s Starlink Push –

**** A Falcon 9 booster landed after a 5th flight following the Spacelink 8 launch on June 3rd. A previous booster flew five times but its 5th landing failed due to a mistake during refurbishment. The boosters for the Falcon 9 Block 5 vehicles, considered the final major variant of the F9 system, were designed to fly 10 times before undergoing either major refurbishment or retirement. So this booster will no doubt be used for a 6th flight. Turn around times were predicted by Elon Musk to go as low as 24 hours but so far have not been less than a couple of months. With the pressure on to launch Spacelink satellites as quickly as possible, it will be interesting to see if the turnaround times decrease substantially.

**** Booster from June 3rd Starlink launch has already gone horizontal at Port Canaveral. Leg retractions now happen quite soon after the boosters are lifted from the landing platforms onto the dock.

A video of the booster returning to Port Canaveral on June 7th:

**** Starlink and Dragon spacecraft share some hardware and software technology: SpaceX engineers flash some facts about Starlink satellites – Geekwire

    • The technology used for the display screens on the Crew Dragon also provided the basis for the user interface on the first two prototype Starlink satellites, launched in 2018. “It’s grown a ton since then, but it was awesome to see Bob and Doug using something that somehow felt familiar to us too,” Monson wrote.
    • SpaceX relies on the Linux operating system in its satellites as well as its rockets. “Each launch of 60 satellites contains more than 4,000 Linux computers,” Monson said. “The constellation has more than 30,000 Linux nodes (and more than 6,000 microcontrollers) in space right now. And because we share a lot of our Linux platform infrastructure with Falcon and Dragon, they get the benefit of our more than 180 vehicle-years of on-orbit test time.”

**** NASA agrees to allow crew missions to fly with previously flown Dragon spacecraft and first stage boosters. This is similar to what happened with cargo missions. After initial flights with all new systems are performed successfully, NASA will allow to the utilization of previously flown Dragon 2 vehicles and F9 boosters. There will be certification procedures to insure the systems are as ready for flights as  new unused systems would be.

**** Astronauts launched on first crewed Dragon mission will stay at the ISS till August. : NASA anticipates August return for Hurley and Behnken – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft will likely return to Earth in August to wrap up a test flight to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, a senior space agency official said Tuesday.

The exact schedule for Hurley and Behnken’s return to Earth will hinge on several factors, such as the performance of their Crew Dragon spaceship, the progress of their work on the space station, and weather conditions in the capsule’s landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, according to Ken Bowersox, the acting associate administrator for NASA’s human exploration and operations mission directorate.

Bowersox said Tuesday that the Crew Dragon’s Demo-2 mission — the first SpaceX mission to carry astronauts — is proceeding as planned, and the crew capsule is performing well since its launch on a Falcon 9 rocket May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center and docking with the space station one day later.

The first operational crew mission with four astronauts aboard a Dragon is expected to lift off in late August or early September:

NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi are training for the Crew-1 mission. The Crew-1 flight will only launch after the return of the Demo-2 mission, and a subsequent review of data from the Crew Dragon test flight.

While the spacecraft for the Demo-2 mission came with a four-month certified mission lifetime, the Dragon for the Crew-1 flight will be certified for a full-duration 210-day mission, according to NASA.

Stich said there are several modifications to the capsule SpaceX is building for the Crew-1 mission, although major components such as the capsule’s life support system and guidance, navigation and control systems are largely unchanged.

“The Crew-1 vehicle can land in a little bit higher wind state,” Stich said. SpaceX has changed some of the outer composite panels to make that a little stronger.”

“It also has the capability not only dock to the forward port of the space station, but it can go to the zenith (space-facing) port as well, so it has that capability, and it has a couple other features,” Stich said.

**** 10 years since the launch of the first Falcon 9. Here’s an article about the history of the F9 highlighted by a couple of interesting stories about improvisations that got the early F9s into orbit on time: Forget Dragon, the Falcon 9 rocket is the secret sauce of SpaceX’s success | Ars Technica

Musk hated to substantially delay the mission. With this first launch of the Cargo Dragon spacecraft, he knew full well SpaceX stood to make history. No private company had ever launched a spacecraft into orbit before and then safely retrieved it. So he took out his phone and rang up Marty Anderson, one of the company’s ace technicians.

“Hey Marty, do you think you can just go and climb in the interstage and cut the bottom six inches off the skirt?” Musk asked.

No joke—Musk wanted Anderson to go into the rocket with a pair of metal shears and trim the bottom of the skirt. This was the solution to a tear in an engine nozzle.

Anderson was game. Hours later, he flew on Musk’s private jet from the company’s factory in California to Florida, got into a lift, and rode a crane up to the interstage. This happened with the rocket standing upright, out on the launch pad. Soon, Anderson had snipped away the skirt at the bottom of the engine.

**** Starship

****** The cleanup following the SN4 explosion proceeded rapidly and another launch platform will be ready soon. According to road closure schedules and FAA notices, the SN5 prototype is expected to roll out to the launch site this week and engine tests restarted soon thereafter.

More at SpaceX set for a swift return to testing following Starship SN4 anomaly –

** Elon makes Starship the primary focus for SpaceX. With the successful launch of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the ISS with two astronauts on board, the development of the Falcon vehicle Crew systems is essentially complete. The company will need to insure that Crew and Cargo operations are carried out efficiently and safely, but the hardware development segments of the company can now move on to other projects. These will now be centered on development of the Starship and its Super Heavy Booster systems: Elon Musk email to SpaceX employees: Starship is the top priority – CNBC

SpaceX launched astronauts for the first time barely a week ago but CEO Elon Musk does not want the company resting on its laurels.

Instead, Musk urged SpaceX employees to accelerate progress on its next-generation Starship rocket “dramatically and immediately,” writing Saturday in a company-wide email seen by CNBC.

“Please consider the top SpaceX priority (apart from anything that could reduce Dragon return risk) to be Starship,” Musk wrote in the email.

See also

****** SpaceX drops plans to restart Starship activities at a facility at Port of L.A. While some design and component manufacture will be carried out at the Hawthorne, California headquarters, it appears that Texas will be the primary site for most all Starship  development, assembly, and testing activities.

****** View of the Boca Chica facilities:

The next major structure for Boca Chica is a building to assemble the huge Super Heavy booster: SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy booster needs a custom assembly tower – Teslarati

**** Selections of videos showing activity at Boca Chica during the past week:

****** June 5: SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN7 taking shape as launch site is prepared for SN5 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

With Starship SN5 days from rolling to the launch site Starship SN7 sections (inc. “mystery dome”) are being prepared for stacking next to Starship SN6 in the High Bay! Video and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer)

****** June 6:  SpaceX Boca Chica – New Starship Nosecone Peeking – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

While preparations continue at the launch site for the arrival of Starship SN5, future Starships are lining up for their turn. Another new nosecone was spotted peeking out of one of the big tents. Video and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer)

****** June 8:  SpaceX Boca Chica – Launch Pad prepares to receive Starship SN5 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Lots of work on the newly installed launch mount at the Boca Chica launch site was ongoing on Sunday as Starship SN5 prepares for this coming week’s rollout for testing. Video and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer)

****** June 8:  SpaceX Boca Chica – SN6 prepares as launch site work continues – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

While work continues at the SpaceX Boca Chica launch site ahead of Starship SN5’s arrival later this week, Starship SN6 is almost ready to become a complete stack via work on the thrust section. Video and Pictures from Mary (@bocachicagal)

****** June 9: SpaceX Boca Chica – SN7 dome goes for a flip – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Three Starships in work at SpaceX Boca Chica, highlighted by a flip of a SN7 dome, that is either a common or top dome, but is certainly looks different to previous domes. Video and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

** Webcast rocket reports:

**** SpaceX Starship News with SN5, SN6 and SN7, Crew Dragon to be reused for Crew flights, StarlinkMarcus House

**** Scott Manley reviews rocket designs that SpaceX proposed but later dropped:



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