Space transport roundup – July.31.2020

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

** ULA Atlas V sends Perseverance rover on course to a Mars landing on February 18th.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 30, 2020, at 7:50 a.m. EDT.

See also:

** Long March 5 launched Tienwan-1 mission to Mars. On July 23rd, China launched the Tianwen-1 Mars mission on a Long March-5 launch vehicle  from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, Hainan Province in the southeast of the country. The LM-5 is China’s heaviest lift vehicle and this was just its fifth flight. The  big payload, included an orbiter, a lander and a rover, will reach Mars in February.

** A Long March 4B rocket carried the Earth-observation remote-sensing satellite Ziyuan 3-03 into orbit on July 25th. The rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi Province in northern China. There were also two small satellites on board, one for astronomical X-ray observations and the other for data-relay.

** Russian Soyuz rocket launched Progress cargo carrier to the ISS on July 23rd. The vehicle reached the ISS about 3 hours later and managed to dock successfully despite a small misalignment as it neared the docking port under automated control.

** Arianespace returning to service following Covad-19 shutdown since March with the launch of an Ariane 5 with three satellites: Intelsat Galaxy 30 telecomm satellite built by Northrop Grumman,  Northrop Grumman MEV-2 mission extension vehicle, and BSAT-4b telecomm satellite built by Maxar for the Japanese company B-SAT. The current target date is July 31th.

** Propellant line break caused the premature end to first LauncherOne flight: Virgin Orbit identifies cause of engine shutdown on first LauncherOne flight – SpaceNews

The first flight of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket failed to reach orbit in May when a propellant line broke seconds after the ignition of the rocket’s first stage engine, the company’s chief executive said July 22.

Speaking at a webinar organized by the SpaSpace ce Generation Advisory Council, an organization for young space industry professionals, Dan Hart said the demonstration mission for the LauncherOne rocket May 25 went well until several seconds after the ignition of the NewtonThree engine that powers the rocket’s first stage.

“We had a component break in our engine system. It was a high-pressure feed line,” he said. Liquid oxygen “stopped going into the engine and our flight was terminated.”

See also Virgin Orbit traces cause of LauncherOne engine failure to propellant line – Spaceflight Now.

** Dawn Aerospace in New Zealand debuts the Mk-II Aurora reusable suborbital spaceplane: Dawn Aerospace unveils their new spaceplane; the Dawn Mk-II Aurora — Dawn Aerospace

Dawn Aerospace, headquartered in Christchurch, unveiled its suborbital spaceplane today, the “Mk-II Aurora”, ahead of an intensive 12 month flight test campaign. 

The Mk-II Aurora is the latest development in a series of test vehicles that will one day launch satellites into space. It is the second rocket-powered aircraft or “spaceplane” produced by Dawn Aerospace. It will be capable of flights to above 100km altitude, the border to space, before returning to land at an airport. Upon landing it can be refuelled and flown again within hours. It will be the first vehicle to ever be capable of such a feat multiple times per day.

The Mk-II Aurora will demonstrate the core technology for daily access to space in a subscale vehicle. It has a modest payload capacity, enough to bring scientific experiments to space, but too little for an orbital second stage. The later generation Mk-III will be based on the Mk-II design, but with a larger payload capacity. This will allow a 50-100 kg satellite to be delivered to orbit. The Mk-III will deliver satellites into orbit using an expendable second stage. After releasing a satellite, the second stage burns up in the atmosphere and accounts for about 6 percent of the whole vehicle, making the whole system 94% reusable.

The first test flights could happen by the end of this year.  In a preliminary phase, the vehicle will use two jet engines. The operational vehicle will use a rocket engine burning hydrogen peroxide with kerosene. Operational suborbital spaceflights will cost $50k.

** Scott Manley gives his views on the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo interior, which was revealed to the public on July 28th:

Virgin Galactic had a ‘virtual reveal’ of the interior design of Spaceplane Two, the passenger cabin designed to safely carry tourists over 50 miles above the Earth for rocket powered suborbital hops. It’s not as simple as picking out nice colours and fancy materials, the seats need to secure the passengers through acceleration and aerobraking, which have different orientations. They also need to provide enough room for passengers to make full use of the cabin during zero g, enough windows to observe the earth from far above, and make it easy to get back in when the deceleration starts.

** Alan Boyle takes a VR ride to space on the SS2: Virgin Galactic takes you inside SpaceShipTwo in virtual reality – Geekwire

More than a decade after Virgin Galactic unveiled a swoopy, spacey look for the passenger cabin of its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, the company took the wraps off a more down-to-Earth design that reflects what spacefliers will actually see when they climb into their seats. And in a move befitting this era of social distancing, the big reveal was done with the aid of virtual reality. Read more:

** “Why is 304L Stainless Steel Special for Building ROCKETS?” is the focus of the latest Workshop episode from Copenhagen Suborbitals:

Copenhagen Suborbitals is the world’s only crewed, crowdfunded space program. In the future, a volunteer astronaut will fly to space on our home-built rocket. We do this on our spare time, all the donations go to paying our workshop rent and buying materials. We are forever thankful to each of our supporters!

In this video we talk about the interesting features of stainless steel for building rockets and one special trait that we can use to our advantage to make our Spica rocket’s 304L alloy propellant tanks as strong and as light as aluminum. We also cover Bianca’s DIY contra-rotating drone project for her Master thesis in Autonomous Systems, Spica propellant tank bulkhead production and more.

** An update from Launcher on engine development:

** Electrodynamic tether device from Tethers Unlimited deorbits spacecraft at the end of their missions. After several years of development and testing in space, the Terminator Tape™ Deorbit Modules is attracting more attention and customers. This arises from the growing awareness that active measures are needed to reduce orbital traffic as the number of satellites in low earth orbit rapidly expands.

From the Datasheet (pdf):

    • Terminator Tape is mounted on the face of the spacecraft
    • Solar cells are mounted to the top surface using electrical feedthroughs provided
    • Upon completion of the mission, the spacecraft commands deployment of the Terminator Tape
    • The module deploys a conducting tape, which generates neutral particle drag and passive electromagnetics drag to hasten the deorbit of the spacecraft
Terminator Tape module with solar panel. Credits: Tethers Unlimited

** Diagnosing a rocket motor nozzle failure: Jeff Smith back to the show to discuss his July 13, 2020 Space Review article, CSI: Rocket Science.

** Briefs:


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** SpaceX:

** Another attempt at Starlink 9 launch upcoming on this Saturday, August 1st at 3:21 am EDT (0721 GMT) [Thursday, August 6th at 1:33 am EDT ( 0533 GMT)].  SpaceX Starlink mission nears third launch attempt after six weeks of delays – Teslarati. This mission to launch 57 Starlink satellites and two BlackSky earth imaging satellites has been repeatedly postponed since the end of June.

[ Update: Due to the threat of  tropical storm Isaias, the launch of the Starlink 9 mission has been postponed yet again. The new target liftoff date is Thursday, August 6th at 1:33 am EDT ( 0533 GMT).

** The Crew Dragon set to depart from ISS on August 1st and splash down near Florida on August 2nd. However, an approaching tropical storm may cause a postponement of the return.  Here is a schedule of coverage of the event: NASA to Provide Coverage of Astronauts’ Return from Space Station | NASA

** A briefing by NASA and SpaceX on the return of the Crew Dragon from the ISS: Expedition 63 Post Flight Readiness Review Briefing – July 29, 2020

Following the completion of a readiness review, NASA and SpaceX officials previewed the upcoming return to Earth of NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken during a news conference July 29. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Commercial Crew program manager Steve Stich, International Space Station program manager Joel Montalbano and Benji Reed, the SpaceX director for crew mission management discussed splashdown and recovery options for the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle with Hurley and Behnken aboard. The astronauts are scheduled to undock from the space station on Aug. 1 with a planned splashdown on Aug. 2 to complete an historic nine-week mission.

** The first operational Crew Dragon mission will happen about 6 weeks after the return of the DM-2 crew: SpaceX spaceship almost ready for next NASA astronaut launch – Teslarati

Deep inside SpaceX’s Hawthorne, California rocket factory, the Crew Dragon capsule – believed to be C207 – assigned to the company’s operational astronaut launch debut (Crew-1) is in the late stages of final integration. A photo provided alongside the news confirms that the Crew Dragon is nearly complete. Aside from the installation of body panels and several other tasks that will be completed once the ship arrives in Florida, capsule C207 is already fully outfitted with a heatshield, windows, Draco maneuvering thrusters, SuperDraco abort thrusters, parachute deployment hardware, and much more.

According to Benji Reed, SpaceX Director of Crew Mission Management, SpaceX’s Crew-1 operational astronaut launch debut remains on track to launch no earlier than late September. Capsule C207 and its upgraded trunk section are also reportedly on track to head from California to SpaceX’s Florida launch facilities in time to support that schedule and could ship east just two or so weeks from now.

** Astronauts for second operational Crew Dragon mission announced: NASA Announces Astronauts to Fly on SpaceX Crew-2 Mission | NASA

NASA and its international partners have assigned crew members for Crew-2, which will be the second operational SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the mission. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join as mission specialists.

Crew-2 is targeted to launch in spring 2021, following the successful completion of both NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission, which is expected to return to Earth Aug. 2, and the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission, which is targeted for late September. The Crew-2 astronauts will remain aboard the space station for approximately six months as expedition crew members, along with three crewmates who will launch via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The increase of the full space station crew complement to seven members – over the previous six – will allow NASA to effectively double the amount of science that can be conducted in space.

** McGregor test facility observing:

** SpaceX raising more money to pay for Starlink deployment and Starship development: SpaceX is raising up to $1 billion at $44 billion valuation –

Space Exploration Technologies, Elon Musk’s reusable rocket and satellite internet venture, is in talks to raise $500 million to $1 billion in series N funding at a valuation of $44 billion, according to documents reviewed by CNBC and people familiar with the company’s fundraising activity.

The funding would help SpaceX begin commercial operations of its Starlink satellite broadband service and to conduct suborbital and orbital test flights of its Starship and SuperHeavy booster launch vehicle. Bloomberg previously reported on the fundraising plans.

See also SpaceX on track to become third most valuable private company in the world – Teslarati.

**** Starship

The SN5 prototype Starship was pressure tested last week. Subsequent efforts to test fire its single Raptor engine were hampered by various weather and technical issues. The first attempt today was scrubbed when a small fishing boat wandered into safety zone near the test site.  A second try, though, was successful. The firing occurs at about the 30:14 point in this video:

** SN5 SpaceX Stealth Cam Ultra Up Close Static Fire 3 ViewsLabPadre

The test was soon followed by this comment from Elon:

From previous tests, can expect the 150 m hop in about 2 or 3 days.

More about the Boca Chica SN5 tests:

****** Videos of recent Boca Chica activities:

****** July 23: SpaceX Boca Chica – Mk1 Fins Mounted – SN8 Common Dome Flip – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

The Mk1 Fins were hoisted into position, SN8’s Common Dome was flipped, a new nosecone (yes, another one- this one with a header tank weld) has appeared in the nosecone fabrication tent, and modifications on the old SN2 test tank continue. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer)

****** July 24: SpaceX Boca Chica – High Bay Level 2 – Forward Dome Sheathed – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

The new High Bay continues to rise, a Forward Dome is moved out of a fabrication tent and sheathed with a ring stack, SN2 test tank mods continue, and the Mk1 Fins make an appearance. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer)

****** July 28: SpaceX Boca Chica – SN5 Preparations – SN8 Downcomer Spotted – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship SN5 is being prepared for another Static Fire attempt at the launch site while work continues on future Starships, including SN8 at the Production Facility. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer).

****** July 29: SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN5 waits for Static Fire. Rebuilding Bluezilla – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

While Starship SN5 continues to prepare for a Static Fire test, Boca Chica is a hive of activity, with the dishes practicing linkups with SN5, rebuilding Bluezilla and more. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer).

****   Other Starship and space transport reports:

**** July 25: SpaceX Starship Super heavy high bay, ANASIS-II + Hope Mars Launch and Gilmour Space 110-sec testMarcus House – July.25.2020

Another action-packed week of space news. SpaceX Starship Super heavy high bay construction continues, we had the ANASIS-II Falcon 9 launch, the Hope Mars Launch and Gilmour Space 110-sec test fire. There has been no shortage of developments with Starship construction at Boca Chica. Lots to see. We’ve had another beautiful flight of the Falcon 9 with the launch of ANASIS-II with eh booster returning just recently. The HOPE Mars Mission mission launched aboard the Japanese H-2A rocket. Gilmour Space Technologies in Queensland Australia is pioneering new single-port hybrid propulsion rocket engines that are claimed to be significantly cheaper, greener, and safer to operate than traditional liquid and solid propulsion rockets.

**** July.28: SpaceX Starship Updates – 2020 Mars Mission Frenzy! – What about it!?

In this Episode, we will take a look at SpaceX’s progress in Boca Chica Texas and the recent Hurricane Hanna. Does a Hurricane pose any danger and how real is the threat in the future for SpaceX. We will also take a look at the recent Hope mission launched by the United Arab Emirates, the Tainwen-1 mission, launched by China and the imminent Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission to be launched very soon by NASA and ULA. Why is it, that everyone is targeting Mars right now? How does a Mars transfer orbit work?

**** July.24: SpaceX Starship Updates – Why a hop will happen this time!What about it!?

In this Episode, we will take a look at SpaceX’s progress on the Super Heavy High Bay. We will also take a look at the ongoing work at the new Super Heavy and Starship launch pad and last but not least, we will take a look at first preparations for the Starship SN5 150-meter hop!

** 2020 07 22 Fins-a-Go-GoStarshipBocaChica/Maria Pointer – YouTube

We finally see what those incredible Starship designers had in mind for Elon’s Party Central at the Starship Village Community Center. FIN Park? This will be the hub of activity for residents of the newly-renovated homes on Weems Street and those living in the Bambi Airstream executive mansions on wheels.

100 years from now, as Elon City residents look down on the planetary home of their ancestors, they will see the Sun glint off of these wings and point to their Martian children and say… “See children… That’s where your grandfather and grandmother left Earth so you could be the ‘Hope of Consciousness’ for all of humanity.” And they will rejoice.


=== Space Art from C. Sergent Lindsey ===

Sweatshirt imprinted with “SpaceX Delivers the Goods” by C Sergent Lindsey. Available at Fine Art America.