Space transport roundup – Sept.15.2020

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

** Astra Space attempts orbital launch but fails during first stage boost phase. Following several scrubbed attempts over the past few months to launch Rocket 3.1, the vehicle lifted off from the pad at the Alaska Aerospace on Kodiak Island on Friday Sept. 11th. After about 30 seconds into the flight, the engine cutoff and the rocket fell onto the ground, producing an explosion visible to observers on the island.

A posting from the company: We Have Liftoff! | Astra

As we’ve always said, we expect it to take three flights to make it to orbit. Tonight, we saw a beautiful launch! Preliminary data review indicates the rocket performed very well. Early in the flight, our guidance system appears to have introduced some slight oscillation into the flight, causing the vehicle to drift from its planned trajectory leading to a commanded shutdown of the engines by the flight safety system. We didn’t meet all of our objectives, but we did gain valuable experience, plus even more valuable flight data. This launch sets us well on our way to reaching orbit within two additional flights, so we’re happy with the result.

We are incredibly proud of what the team accomplished today. This was our first orbital launch attempt, and the first flight of a rocket designed from the ground-up for low cost mass production and highly-automated launch operations. The entire launch system was deployed by six people in less than a week – completely unprecedented.

Astra’s strategy is to learn fast through iterative development. Although we’re pleased with today’s outcome, we still have more work to do to reach orbit. Once we reach orbit, we will relentlessly continue to improve the economics of the system as we deliver our customers’ payloads.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be taking a close look at the flight data to determine how to make the next flight more successful. Rocket 3.2 is already built and ready for another big step towards orbit. Thank you to our incredible team and their families, all of our supporters, and stay tuned for updates over the next few weeks. We’ll be back to the pad before you know it!

Astra rocket lifts off from Kodiak Island, Alaska. Credits: Astra Space/John Kraus

Other reports

** A  Chinese Long March-11H rocket launched nine remote sensing satellites on Tuesday, Sept.15th from a platform at sea: China bounces back with Long March 11 launch of nine satellites –

Three days after losing a high-resolution remote sensing satellite due to an apparent problem with its upper stage, China launched nine new satellites for the Jilin-1 remote sensing constellation from a barge out at sea.

Launch of the nine Jilin-1 Gaofen-03 satellites took place at 01:23 UTC on Tuesday using the Long March-11H (Y2) rocket.

Launched from the De Bo 3 launch platform, all mission preparations and countdown operations were conducted from the command and control ship Bei Hai Jiu 101. This ship left port on September 13 to travel to the launch zone in the Yellow Sea.

** Chinese Kuaizhou-1A rocket fails during launch of remote sensing satellite. The solid-fueled vehicle lifted off on Sept. 12th  from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The failure of the Jilin-1 Gaofen satellite to reach orbit was reported several hours later. The small launch system can put 200kg into a sun synchronous low earth orbit.

** China successfully launched a Gaofen remote sensing satellite on a Long March 4B rocket from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Sept. 7th.

The LM-4B booster with toxic fuel still on board falls into a civilian area: Another Chinese rocket falls near a school, creating toxic orange cloud | Ars Technica

** Chinese launched a small space plane on Long March-2F rocket on September 4th from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. It landed after two days in orbit at an undisclosed location.  Little information about the vehicle has been given out by the Chinese government,. No images of the vehicle have been released. Most reports assume that it is similar to the X-37B uncrewed spaceplane.

** ULA sets new target date for Delta IV Heavy launch with the NROL-44 reconnaissance satellite. The company has diagnosed the fault that caused the scrub of a launch attempt on Aug. 29th. The abort happened 3 seconds before liftoff and after the liquid hydrogen/oxygen engine on the core booster had ignited.

** Dynetics led team rolls out engineering mockup of human lunar lander system: Dynetics Marks Progress With Artemis Human Landing System Test Article Development – Dynetics

Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, has completed building a full-scale human landing system (HLS) test article that will be used for initial evaluations for NASA’s Artemis program.

The Dynetics HLS (DHLS) test article, located in Huntsville, Ala., is built to-scale and allows for test and evaluation across the engineering lifecycle. The DHLS team will use the test article for human-in-the-loop (HITL) task identification and analysis, assessing net habitable volume, crew module accommodations, placement and orientation of various components and overall habitability.

The test article includes the crew module, autonomous logistics platform for all-moon cargo access (ALPACA), ascent and descent propellant tanks and deployable solar arrays. This low-slung design could allow for easier and safer access to the lunar surface.

** A note from the LAUNCHER team:

** A fun view from EXOS Aerospace of the leak check of a new engine: Pressure Test Video – EXOS Aerospace  Blog

** Every Spacecraft Which Has Visited The Space StationScott Manley

Over the last 2 decades there have been over 200 spacecraft which have visited the space station, built by many nations and organizations, with different designs. So I thought it might be nice to make a summary of every spacecraft for comparison since we’re getting close to the 20th anniversary and 100th crew to visit the ISS.

** Links:


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** SpaceX:

Falcon 9 launches of the Starlink 12 and Starlink 13 missions, each with up to 60 Starlinks depending on the number and masses of any rideshare customer payloads, are scheduled for this month.

Starlink 12 is currently set for no earlier than  Thursday, September 17 at 2:17 pm EDT (10:17 am UTC).  The landing platform droneship “Just Read the Instructionsleft Port Canaveral on Sunday. The booster for the launch is the same one used for the Crew Dragon mission on May 30th that sent astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS.  It also launched the South Korean ANASIS II comm-sat on July 20th.

The launch of a USAF GPS satellite is currently set for the end of the month.

** A continuous video from Falcon 9 booster during the SAOCOM 1B launch and landing back at the Cape:

Sped up footage from an onboard camera during Falcon 9’s launch of the SAOCOM 1B mission – SpaceX’s first launch to a polar orbit from the East Coast. After launching from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Falcon 9’s first stage returned to land at Landing Zone 1.

** A high resolution time lapse of the return and port handling of the booster that flew the recent Starlink 10 mission: 8K: SpaceX Falcon 9 B1060 2 Return to Port Canaveral & Leg Folding On Board OCISLY – Trevor Mahlmann

Compiled all my coverage from the recent Falcon 9 B1060.2 return to Cape Canaveral into one video. Some really fascinating time lapses I waited around all day for (Octagrabber releasing Falcon 9’s thrust structure and collapsing)

**** Starship

The current activities at Boca Chica include:

  • SN-5, SN-6 – Appear to have been refurbished after their short test hops. Not clear if they will fly again.
  • SN-7.1 – engineering model expected to be pressure tested to failure this week. It underwent an initial test last week and subsequently was moved to another test stand that has rams to push on the lower tank to simulate the extra weight during flight due to acceleration.
  • SN-8 – From Elon’s tweet shown below, this vehicle will soon be assembled and, unlike SN-5 and SN-6, it will have flaps and nosecone . After pressure tests and static firings, a high altitude 20 km flight will be attempted: Starship test program advances towards ambitious SN8 test flight –

  • SN-9 – Stacking has begun in the mid-bay hangar.
  • SN-10 – Assembly of some sections.
  • SN-11 – Some parts observed on site.

The construction of the High-Bay hangar continues. It will probably be finished within a week or so. Presumably, assembly of the first Super-Heavy prototype can then proceed. Construction is also progressing on the orbital launch mount for the Super Heavy booster. Regarding orbital tests:

The landing will look something like this:

Elon responded to this in a tweet:

Pretty accurate simulation, although SN8 will use 3 Raptors. If SN8 craters, SN9 & SN10 are close behind. High production rate allows for fast iteration

****** Testing of Raptor with high vacuum nozzle is ready to start:

******  Sept.8 – SpaceX Boca Chica – SN10 Forward Dome Sleeved – SN7.1 Test Preps – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship Serial Number 10’s forward dome was sleeved with a 4 ring stack, large pieces of the High Bay’s roof were lifted into place, SN7.1 was readied for its test campaign and work continued around the entire facility. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer)

******  Sept.8 – SpaceX Boca Chica – SN11 Parts Spotted – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship SN11’s Aft Dome Section, the three ring stack that will eventually go over the Aft Dome was spotted by Mary today, that makes at least SN8, SN9, SN10, and SN11 all in production simultaneously. Work on the Orbital Pad, Starship Pads, High Bay and SN7.1 continued. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer)

****** Sept.12: SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site Flyover 09/12! – RGV Aerial Photography

***** Sept.12: SpaceX Boca Chica Build Site Flyover 09/12/2020 – RGV Aerial Photography

****** Sept 12: SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship Test Tank SN7.1 readied for Burst Test – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

The Starships SN7.1 Test Tank has been moved on to the test mount with the hydraulic rams ahead of an expected burst test as a pathfinder for upcoming Starships. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Brady Kenniston (@TheFavoritist).

****** Sept.12: SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN6 Moved Out Of Mid Bay – High Bay Roof Work Continues – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship SN6’s post flight inspections appear to be complete with it being moved out of the Mid Bay, next to its twin SN5. Work on the roof of the High Bay continued, some new unknown parts were delivered, and SN7.1 had been mounted on Starship Pad B. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Nic Gautschi (@NGautschi)

***** Sept.15:  SpaceX Boca Chica – New Legs and Thrust Puck Delivered – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

New legs were delivered along with a fresh Thrust Puck. The SN7.1 Test Tank is hooked up for testing, SN9’s Thrust Section was flipped ahead of stacking, and work around the entire site continued. Video and Pictures from Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Nicholas Gautschi (@NGautschi).

**** Other Starship and space transport reports:

**** Sept.12: SpaceX Starship updates, Starlink Space Lasers, Rocket Lab Photon, SLS news & Astra launch failure – Marcus House

Today we are going to give you a rundown of SpaceX Starship updates, Starlink Space Lasers, Rocket Lab Photon, SLS news & Astra launch failure. So many updates Starship updates from BocaChica. SN7.1, SN8, SN9, SN10 and now SN11! Some interesting new information about Starlink and its newly tested communication via space lasers. We are going to talk a little about Rocket Labs’ awesome new Photon spacecraft and a few interesting updates on NASA’s Space Launch System. Sadly Astra’s 1st orbital test launch failed during first-stage engine burn. That news was breaking as this video was rendering. Tough luck. Better luck next time.

**** Sept.11: SpaceX Starship Mass Production Starting . – What about it!?

Today amongst other things I’ll explain to you, how SpaceX will be able to build their offshore launch platforms for Starship and Super Heavy!

**** Sept. 7: SpaceX Starship – Around the honeymoon – DeepSpaceCourier – “Video follows newlyweds on their lunar honeymoon.”

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