Space transport roundup – July.7.2020

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

[ Update: The launch was scrubbed due to thunderstorms in the area around the Cape. Another attempt will be made this Saturday, July 11th  during a window between 10:49 am to 11:00 am EDT.  Currently, the forecast shows a 60% chance of acceptable conditions for liftoff during the window.


** Delayed Starlink-9 mission now set for liftoff on Wednesday at 11:59 am EDT (1559 GMT) from Pad 39A at Cape Kennedy Space Center. The Falcon 9’s launch date was postponed several times in June and then moved till after the launch of a USAF GPS satellite. The rocket will carry 57 Starlink broadband Internet satellites and 2 BlackSky earth imaging satellites into polar orbit.

Four Falcon 9 launches could happen this month. Here are the three other missions with their no-earlier-than dates:

Find more about other SpaceX activities below.

** Rocket Lab Electron mission fails due to upper stage issue. This was the 13th launch of the Electron rocket, which also failed on its first test launch due to a communications problem in a ground system. Rocket Lab Mission Fails to Reach Orbit | Rocket Lab.

The payload consisted of seven satellites including a Canon Electronics CE-SAT-IB imaging satellite, five Planet SuperDove imaging smallsats, and the Faraday-1 6U CubeSat from In-Space Missions.

Scott Manley gives his view on the failure:

See also:

** China launches two rockets within three days. The first rocket was a Long March 4B rocket launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Lunch Center in northern China on July 2nd with a Gaofen remote sensing satellite as the primary payload. Also on board was the Xibaipo (BY 70-2) CubeSat, intended for science and education related tasks.

The second rocket was a Long March 2D that lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert carrying the Shiyan-6 satellite on July 5th. The Shiyan-6 is described as a remote sensing technology development system but is believed by analysts outside of China as a military reconnaissance satellite.

See also:

** Israel launched a reconnaissance satellite into orbit with a Shavit rocket. As with previous Israeli satellites, the rocket launched the Ofek 16 satellite towards the west over the Mediterranean Sea and into a retrograde orbit.

** Virgin Galactic to show SpaceShipTwo interior design on July 28th: Virgin Galactic Announces Date for World’s First Virtual Reveal of Spaceship Cabin Design – Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic today [July.2.2020] announced that SpaceShipTwo’s cabin interior design reveal will take place on July 28, 2020. The virtual event will be streamed live on YouTube. In celebration of this milestone, the Company will also be announcing plans to bring immersive experiences of Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight and cabin interior to aspiring astronauts around the world.

The unveiling of the spaceship cabin design marks the latest milestone towards Virgin Galactic’s operational readiness and will accentuate the Company’s focus on using inspired and bold design to transform the entire customer journey. While the cabin interior has been created to integrate seamlessly with every step of that journey, it is also the design centerpiece, providing safety without distraction, quietly absorbing periods of sensory intensity and offering each astronaut a level of intimacy required for personal discovery and transformation.

The live-streamed unveiling will feature a virtual walkthrough of the cabin, curated by the multi-disciplinary team which has striven to ensure that every detail of its design works to provide an unparalleled and safe consumer experience.

** NASA and Boeing give update on Starliner crew vehicle and uncrewed test flight: NASA and Boeing Complete Orbital Flight Test Reviews | NASA

NASA and Boeing have completed major reviews of the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December 2019 and are continuing with preparations to refly the test, designated Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“NASA and Boeing have completed a tremendous amount of work reviewing the issues experienced during the uncrewed flight test of Starliner,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator at NASA. “Ultimately, everything we’ve found will help us improve as we move forward in the development and testing of Starliner, and in our future work with commercial industry as a whole.”

The joint NASA-Boeing Independent Review team completed the final assessment into the intermittent space-to-ground communication issue detected during the first uncrewed Orbital Flight Test of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. The review team previously completed its investigation into the two other primary anomalies experienced during the test.

No date has been set yet for liftoff of the OFT-2 mission.

** Briefs:


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** SpaceX:

** The Falcon 9 booster for the recent USAF GPS III satellite launch has returned to Cape Canaveral : SpaceX adds fresh Falcon 9 booster to the fleet after drone ship recovery – Teslarati

SpaceX has added a second new Falcon 9 booster to its rocket fleet in just one month after B1060 safely returned to shore aboard drone ship Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) on July 4th.

Exactly 31 days prior, Falcon 9 booster B1058 sailed into Port Canaveral aboard drone ship Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) on June 3rd after becoming the first private rocket in history to launch astronauts into orbit. Prior to B1058’s successful May 30th launch and landing debut, SpaceX’s fleet of available flightworthy boosters appeared to be just three strong, comprised of B1049, B1051, and B1059. Supposedly (relatively) easy to reconfigure into regular Falcon 9 boosters, twice-flown Falcon Heavy side boosters B1052 and B1053 remain wildcards that seem unlikely to re-enter circulation anytime soon.

In other words, SpaceX has grown its fleet of flight-proven Falcon 9 boosters by almost 70% in a single month, undoubtedly bringing with it some welcome sighs of relief for the second half of the company’s 2020 launch manifest. Given just how ambitious SpaceX’s plans are for the next six months, both boosters are set to be invaluable assets in the near term.

A view of the landing of this booster:

**** Starship

After the SN5 Starship prototype passed its cryogenic pressure tests last week, work continued this week on the launch platform and on installation of a Raptor engine. It had once been expected that SN5 would get 3 engines. However, it appears that SN5 will do the one engine powered test hop that was previously planned for the SN4 prototype. Before it had a chance to fly, SN4 was destroyed by a huge explosion from the ignition of methane that poured out when a quick-release attachment at the base of the vehicle failed following an engine test firing.

According to the current road closure schedule, the earliest we’ll see engine test firings for the SN5 is Friday July 10th.

A huge “high bay” building is now under construction. It will be used for assembly of Super Heavy Booster prototypes. An awesome “Bluezilla” crane was assembled over the last week and it has begun lifting structural sections into place.: SpaceX Super Heavy ‘high bay’ construction begins in South Texas – Teslarati.

Before SpaceX can launch a massive and super noisy Super Heavy, it will need to update the company’s FAA environmental review and license for the Boca Chica facility: SpaceX facility under FAA review after changing rocket tests in South Texas –

Border Report was told the FAA had not approved significant plans that SpaceX has for the facility since the company told the agency it had switched projects and is now using this facility to develop a new, massive spacecraft to travel to Mars, called the Starship. The FAA also said it has begun a new environmental review of the company’s new plans.

“The current testing falls within the current EIS. However, a full-scale Starship launch site falls outside the scope of the 2014 EIS. The FAA is in the early stages of an environmental review. Any proposal must meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the FAA’s policies and procedures for conducting a NEPA review,” an FAA official wrote in an email to Border Report on Friday.

****** Boca Chica flyovers posted today by RGV Aerial Photography:

****** July 2: SpaceX Boca Chica – Bluezilla Rises! Super Heavy High Bay Builder – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

The biggest crane to arrive at Boca Chica – which is some achievement based on previous big cranes – came to life on Thursday. “Bluezilla” will help build the new Super Heavy High Bay. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer)

****** July 3: SpaceX Boca Chica – Raptor SN27 set for Starship SN5 Installation – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Raptor engine SN27 has arrived for installation into Starship SN5 for the latest test campaign. Meanwhile, work continues on the Super Heavy pad and the Nosecones are multiplying. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Brady Kenniston (@TheFavoritis

****** July 4: SpaceX Boca Chica – SN27 Raptor Installed – Mystery Dome in work – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship SN5 now has her SN27 Raptor installed while work goes on around SpaceX Boca Chica, include the sighting of a mystery dome for a test tank or future Starship. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Brady Kenniston (@TheFavoritist)

****** July 5: SpaceX Boca Chica – Bluezilla Stretches Its Limbs – Boca Drive Past – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

In today’s Starship update: the Manitowoc Model 18000 Crane (AKA Bluezilla) stretches its limbs, the Mystery Dome sees some progress, work on SN5 with Raptor 27 installed continues ahead of engine testing, and Mary treats us all to a Sunday drive past Boca Chica for a checkup on the entire site. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer)

****** July 6: SpaceX Boca Chica – Build Site Bonanza – SN5 Nearly Ready – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

It’s a Build Site bonanza in today’s Boca Chica Update. A new ring was moved into the fabrication tents, the Manitowoc 18000 crane started off its work on the site with some light lifting, some interesting parts were delivered and work on SN5 and Raptor SN27 continued. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer)

** Webcast rocket reports:

**** Starship updates with SN5 Pressure Test, SpaceX GPS III, Mars Perseverance Rover Launch Date SlipsMarcus House

Yet again, another huge week of space news. We have some Starship updates with the SN5 Pressure Test, SpaceX GPS III mission went off perfectly, but the Mars Perseverance Rover Launch Date Slips close to the end of the Mars launch window. The starship SN5 has been pressured up this week with liquid nitrogen getting ready for a static fire test quite soon we hope. We’ve got a bunch of news and updates around the development of the Space Launch System, SpaceX had another incredible launch with the GPS III mission during the week. Flawless yet again. A few updates on the Crew Dragon Demo 2 mission to share and also we have our fingers crossed that the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover mission will get across the line before the end of the launch window to Mars after yet another delay in the schedule.

**** What’s hiding in SpaceX’s Starship? + SpaceX Starship – Why are they building it in a scrap yard?What about it!?

**  Mars Mission Update: June 2020Martian Colonist

The successful Commercial Crew launch by SpaceX and NASA has forever changed spaceflight. Now, for the first time, there is a clear path to sending humans to Mars. Aspiring Martian Colonist Dr. Ryan MacDonald charts the course towards the first human missions to the Red Planet.


=== The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey ===

SpaceX Delivers the Goods” by C. Sergent Lindsey printed on a phone cover. Available at Fine Art America.