Category Archives: Rockets

Space transport roundup – Mar.27.2020

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

** Starship prototype SN4 heads for low altitude test flight after passing propellant tank pressure testing. According to Elon Musk, a single Raptor engine will be attached to SN4 this week. After a static firing test on the pad, they will attempt a 150 meter hop:

For details, see:

Find more SpaceX items below

** Major wing components for Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser delivered:

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, uncrated both wings for its Dream Chaser spaceplane this month at the company’s Louisville, Colorado production facility. The wings’ arrival kicks off the much-anticipated integration phase of a beautiful and critical differentiator for Dream Chaser, the world’s only spaceplane owned by a private company and under contract with NASA.

“The wings are here and now we truly have butterflies in anticipation of this integration phase for Dream Chaser,” said SNC President Eren Ozmen. “Our spaceplane looks and functions unlike anything else in space – more technologically advanced but with all the heritage of the space shuttle program in its design. Dream Chaser’s first flight will be a soaring moment for all of us.”

The arrival kicks off the integration of the complex Wing Deployment System (WDS) as part of the continued assembly and integration of the vehicle. With their innovative folding design, the wings are stowed in the fairing ahead of launch. After the launch vehicle separates, the WDS deploys the wings and locks them into place. Dream Chaser’s steeply angled wings function as stabilizers for the lift generated by the body of the vehicle.

“The wings for Dream Chaser presented an interesting design challenge,” said Dream Chaser program director John Curry. “Not only must they survive in low-Earth orbit like a satellite, but they need to be operational in Earth’s atmosphere, like an aircraft.” Just like the structural body for Dream Chaser, the wings were manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Texas, a subcontractor to SNC, and are single bonded composite structures. This state-of-the-art technology saves weight without compromising strength and stiffness.

Dream Chaser is under contract with NASA for at least six cargo resupply and return service missions to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. The Dream Chaser and attached Shooting Star transport vehicle can carry up to 12,000 pounds of supplies and other cargo, and returns delicate science to Earth with a gentle runway landing.

Dream Chaser wings. Credits: SNC

See also: Dream Chaser receives her wings ahead of flying to the ISS – NASASpaceFlight.com

** Russian Soyuz rocket sends Progress cargo vehicle to the ISS on April 24th from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Rendezvous and docking happened just four hours after liftoff:

The unpiloted Russian ISS Progress 75 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 24 (April 25, Kazakhstan time) atop a Soyuz 2.1a booster, bound on a fast-track, two-orbit trip to deliver some three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the residents of the International Space Station. Less than four hours after launch, the Progress executed an automated docking to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module where it will remain until December.

** Virgin Galactic continues a series of STEM tutorials with an episode on “Testing a spaceship” – Virgin Galactic – YouTube

Join this #ScienceWithVirginGalactic Spacechat as we explain how we test a spaceship to get it ready for commercial service.

** Interview with Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck:

Welcome to IN DEPTH Episode 8 of What about it!? I’ve had a conversation with Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab. We talked about Electrons mid-air recovery, Photon and why it will change the Small-Sat business and about his plans for the future, including a personal goal to explore Venus to find out, if life could exist in our neighbours atmosphere!

** “An Overview of Firefly Aerospace, Vehicles and Capabilities” – Eric Salwan, Firefly Aerospace – FISO presentation: Slides (pdf)

And another update here: This Rocket Company Is Staying Calm, Carrying On With Fresh Contract And A New Launch Date – Forbes

As of this week, there are roughly 300 employees in Firefly, and more hires are coming quickly on the production side, to prepare for the first flight. “The secret to success in this business is staying focused,” Markusic said of Firefly’s efforts to send its first rocket aloft, which has experienced a few delays along the way. (But as any space company will point out, hardware development is difficult and costly, especially when novel technology is involved.)

There have been challenges in developing the Alpha rocket, whose novel features include propellant tanks and structures are built with carbon fiber composites, to reduce cracks and leaks while storing supercooled liquid oxygen. Estimates for the first launch date have been pushed back a few times, and a fire broke out during testing of a rocket stage in January.

But the payoff should be worth it in the long run, chief revenue officer Brad Schneider said during the same interview. Firefly projects that once the rocket starts flying, the company should see a “ramp” in revenues as money flows in from paying customers. Providing the test launch in 2020 goes to plan, revenues should start flowing faster in 2021 and accelerate in 2022, getting to a break even point relatively quickly after the upfront $165 million cost in development, preparing for the first flight and building the first two vehicles.

** Scott Manley reports on the latest Iranian launch of a satellite, achieving orbit successfully for the first time:

Earlier this week Iran made their first successful satellite launch in a long time using a new rocket design named ‘Qased’. What’s most striking is that this is a miliatry launch vehicle using new solid propellent motor which is more advanced than any they’ve flow before, and it might just be the first of many developments of the technology.

** The details of the BPM100 bi-propellant engine designed by the Copenhagen Suborbitals team are illustrated in this snazzy animation:

Follow developments of the engine and the Spica rocket, for which it is intended, on the Copenhagen Suborbitals blog.

** Briefs:

==================

Check out the
The Lurio Report
for news and analysis of key developments in NewSpace

The latest issue:
Starship Factory, Axiom’s Modules, Starliner Revelations
Vol. 15, No. 2, March 28, 2020

Space Frontier Foundation Award for NewSpace Journalism

==================

** SpaceX:

** Falcon 9 launched another batch of 60 Starlink satellites last week. First stage and both halves of the fairing nosecone were recovered. The number of Starlink satellites in operation now exceeds 400.

Over the weekend, the booster returned to Port Canaveral following its fourth flight:

B1051.4 Looks good. We are a US disabled veteran run, non-profit video production company whose mission is to bring other disabled US Veterans to witness a launch, experience US Space History and become part of our report. Our nonprofit 501(c)(3) is 100% tax deductible, just go to our webpage www.USLaunchReport.com which is merged with www.VeteransSpaceReport.com and find our Donate button. You can help change the life of a US Veteran.

And here is a video report on the return of the two ships with the fairings, which were scooped from the ocean. No attempt was made this time to catch the fairing shells in nets.

Join NSF’s Julia Bergeron (@Julia_bergeron) for an overview of the SpaceX Fleet recovery operations in Port Canaveral, including the return of the fairings from the seventh Starlink launch and JRTI update.

See also:

** Beautiful video imagery of the latest Falcon launchCosmic Perspective – YouTube:

Watch as we place cameras and microphones at SpaceX launchpad 39A during coverage of Starlink 6. This behind-the-scenes episode mixes liftoff footage, audio recordings and music to share some of the beauty and excitement of what it was like to be there, on the ground, documenting. We also get an incredible opportunity to share unique views of Falcon 9 from remote autonomous camera position and close-in telescopic zooms. I can’t believe one of our high-speed cameras caught those birds in flight!! Learn and see more from SpaceX Starlink 6: https://www.cosmicperspective.com/sta…

** The culprit behind the premature engine shutdown during the previous Starlink mission appears to have been a maintenance mistake rather than a breakdown in the engine’s hardware: This was the first time a F9 booster had flown a fifth time.

** Preparations intensifying for first crewed Dragon mission to the ISS, currently set for May 27th.

And preparations are underway for the first operational  Crew mission after this final test:

** Falcon Heavy will serve as a multi-satellite launcher for military payloads: SpaceX’s next Falcon Heavy launch on track to carry multiple military satellites – Teslararti

According to one of the US Space Force 44 (USSF-44) mission’s satellite providers, SpaceX’s next Falcon Heavy launch remains on track for late 2020 and will apparently be carrying more than one military satellite to orbit.

** Starship

**** Elon Musk sees orbital Starship/Super Heavy becoming operational in a couple of years. The system will enable new and enhanced capabilities such as multiple large in-space telescopes.

**** Here is a series of videos showing activities that led up to last night’s successful tanking tests for SN4 plus scenes of assembly of SN5:

****** April 23: Starship prototype SN4 rolled to the launch padNASASpaceflight – YouTube

****** April 25: SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship Nosecone Stacking – SN4 Preps – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

While Starship SN4 continues preps for its test campaign at the launch site, a nosecone stacking operation was conducted at the launch site. See Elon’s tweet for SN allocation context: https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1… Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal).

****** April 25: SpaceX Boca Chica – SN5 Bulkhead Flipped – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

While Starship SN4 pre-test work continues at the Boca Chica launch site, preparations for SN5 stacking continues with the customary flipping of a bulkhead. Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

***** April.27: 4K SpaceX SN4 Cryogenic Test Time Lapse – LabPadre – YouTube

** Webcast rocket reports:

**** Marcus House: SpaceX Starship SN4 Pressure Test, Crew Dragon Demo-2 and Starlink News – April.25.2020

**** What about it? SpaceX Starship Updates – Starship SN4 Passes Cryo Test – April.27.2020

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Space transport roundup – Apr.9.2020

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

** Russian Soyuz launches 3 new ISS crew members to orbit. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts later docked their spacecraft to the ISS after a 4 orbit, six-hour flight.

More about the launch and the crew:

** Chinese Long March 3B fails to put Indonesian communications satellite into orbit: Long March 3B fails during Indonesian satellite launch – NASASpaceFlight.com

A new communications satellite attempted to make its way into for Indonesia via a China Great Wall Industry Corporation launch on Thursday using a Long March-3B/G2 (Chang Zheng-3B/G2) rocket. The launch took place at 11:45 UTC from the LC2 pad at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, but reportedly failed during third stage flight. The satellite is understood to have already reentered and has thus been destroyed.

The satellite, based on the Chinese DFH-4 platform, was to be used by PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) in cooperation with telecommunication service provider PT Indosat Ooredoo and PT Pintar Nusantara Sejahtera (PNS), to provide broadband internet access and high-quality broadcasting services.

Reports from China noting an issue with the Long March’s third stage has resulted in the mission being classed as a failure.

Here is a view of the launch on Weibo.

And a clip showing the probable reentry of the upper stage and payload:

See also

** Rocket Lab demonstrates mid-air booster capture and recovery operation with a helicopter: Rocket Lab Successfully Completes Electron Mid-Air Recovery Test   | Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab, a space systems company and the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, has successfully completed a mid-air recovery test – a maneuver that involves snagging an Electron test stage from the sky with a helicopter. The successful test is a major step forward in Rocket Lab’s plans to reuse the first stage of its Electron launch vehicle for multiple missions. The test took place in early March, before ‘Safer at Home’ orders were issued and before New Zealand entered Alert Level 4 in response to the COVID-19 situation.

The test was conducted by dropping an Electron first stage test article from a helicopter over open ocean in New Zealand. A parachute was then deployed from the stage, before a second helicopter closed in on the descending stage and captured it mid-air at around 5,000 ft, using a specially designed grappling hook to snag the parachute’s drogue line. After capturing the stage on the first attempt, the helicopter safely carried the suspended stage back to land.

The successful test is the latest in a series of milestones for Rocket Lab as the company works towards a reusable first stage. On the company’s two most recent missions, launched in December 2019 and January 2020, Rocket Lab successfully completed guided the re-entries of Electron’s first stage. Both stages on those missions carried new hardware and systems to enable recovery testing, including guidance and navigation hardware, S-band telemetry and onboard flight computer systems, to gather data during the stage’s atmospheric re-entry. One stage was also equipped with a reaction control system that oriented the first stage 180-degrees for its descent, keeping it dynamically stable for the re-entry. The stage slowed from more than 7,000 km per hour to less than 900 km by the time it reached sea-level, maintaining the correct angle of attack for the full descent.

The next phase of recovery testing will see Rocket Lab attempt to recover a full Electron first stage after launch from the ocean downrange of Launch Complex 1 and have it shipped back to Rocket Lab’s Production Complex for refurbishment. The stage will not be captured mid-air by helicopter for this test, but will be equipped with a parachute to slow its descent before a soft landing in the ocean where it will be collected by a ship. This mission is currently planned for late-2020.

See also Rocket Lab tests Electron stage recovery – SpaceNews.com

** NASA selects Masten Space Systems for commercial lunar lander mission: NASA Awards Contract to Deliver Science, Tech to Moon | NASA

NASA has selected Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, to deliver and operate eight payloads – with nine science and technology instruments – to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024.

The payloads, which include instruments to assess the composition of the lunar surface, test precision landing technologies, and evaluate the radiation on the Moon, are being delivered under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative as part of the agency’s Artemis program.

An illustration of the Masten XL-1 on the lunar surface. NASA contracted Masten to deliver science and technology payloads to the lunar South Pole in 2022. Credits: Masten Space Systems

As the country and the world face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA is leveraging virtual presence and communications tools to safely make progress on these important lunar exploration activities, and to award this lunar surface delivery as it was scheduled prior to the pandemic.

“Under our Artemis program, we are going to the Moon with all of America,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Commercial industry is critical to making our vision for lunar exploration a reality. The science and technology we are sending to the lunar surface ahead of our crewed missions will help us understand the lunar environment better than we ever have before. These CLPS deliveries are on the cutting edge of our work to do great science and support human exploration of the Moon. I’m happy to welcome another of our innovative companies to the group that is ready to start taking our payloads to the Moon as soon as possible.”

The $75.9 million award includes end-to-end services for delivery of the instruments, including payload integration, launch from Earth, landing on the Moon’s surface, and operation for at least 12 days. Masten Space Systems will land these payloads on the Moon with its XL-1 lander.

A small rover is included in the payloads. See the NASA announcement for a full list of the payloads.

See also:

** Boeing announces Starliner uncrewed test flight do-over. There were just too many problems, including near loss of the vehicle, in the first uncrewed test flight last December to go directly to a crewed flight. So Boeing will try another uncrewed test flight to the ISS this fall.

** Astra Space hunkers down during economic pause caused by the Wuhan Virus pandemic: Rocket startup Astra trims staff to survive pandemic until next year – CNBC

Rocket builder Astra, a San Francisco-area startup, recently reduced its staff through a mix of furloughs and layoffs in order to survive delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a person familiar with the situation told CNBC.

Astra cut its overall headcount to about 120 employees from about 150 last month, the person said. The majority of the dismissed workers were furloughed for three months, with only a handful laid off permanently.

Given Astra’s financial position – it has customer contracts for a few dozen launches and had raised about $100 million from investors including ACME Capital, Airbus Ventures, Canaan Partners and Marc Benioff – the person said that the company’s leadership expects it has enough cash to last until the first quarter of next year.

** Northrop Grumman aiming for first liftoff of an OmegA rocket in spring of 2021. The all-throwaway vehicle uses solid-fueled first and second stage boosters. The goal is to win a contract with the USAF for a share of military payload launches. Northrop Grumman making good progress toward OmegA’s first launch – NASASpaceFlight.com.

** An overview of PLD Space of Spain and the use of Nord Lock washers on their rocket:

Full video created by our supplier Nord Lock. They have explained in Social Networks: “From a garage to outer space, secured by Nord-Lock. This is the story about PLD Space, a Spanish aerospace business that was created by two students in 2011. Maintaining the preload in the rocket engine in the upper atmosphere is a top priority, and when locking wire didn’t meet PLD Space’s requirements they came across Nord-Lock wedge-locking washers”.

** Copenhagen Suborbitals will attempt to recovering rocket boosters by parachute:

** Briefs:

** SpaceX:

** Cargo Dragon returned for safe landing in Pacific on Tuesday after spending a month berthed to the ISS. This was the final flight of the Dragon 1 design. All subsequent cargo missions will use a variant of Dragon 2 (also called, confusingly, the Crew Dragon).

** SpaceX sets April 16th for next launch of Starlink satellites. This will be the 5th Starlink launch in 2020. The company is aiming for more than 20 Starlink launches this year: SpaceX plans another Starlink launch next week – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX is preparing to launch another batch of satellites for the Starlink Internet network from Florida’s Space Coast as soon as April 16, a sign that launch operations at Cape Canaveral could continue at a reduced pace amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

The launch next week is also set to occur weeks after a major competitor to SpaceX’s Starlink network filed for bankruptcy.

The mission is set for launch at around 5:31 p.m. EDT (2131 GMT) next Thursday, April 16, from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

No word from SpaceX yet regarding the cause of an early shutdown of a Merlin engine on the first stage booster during the last Starlink launch. That booster was on its fifth launch, the first Falcon 1st stage to reach that many reuses. The satellites successfully reached orbit but the booster failed to land on the ocean platform.

The total number of Starlink satellites to reach orbit so far is 362 Starlink satellites. About five have de-orbited and the first 60 on the “Starlink 0” appear to be treated as test vehicles and may not participate in an operational Internet service.

** NASA and SpaceX test zip line emergency escape system from Pad 39A launch towerNASA, SpaceX Team Up for Emergency Egress Exercise – Commercial Crew Program/NASA

** More scenes from the recent launch day practice: Video: Astronauts participate in Crew Dragon launch day dress rehearsal – Spaceflight Now

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, assigned to fly SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on its first piloted mission into orbit, participated in a dress rehearsal of their suit-up procedures and a trip to launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 17, 2020.

NASA and SpaceX officials organized the practice run before the launch of a Crew Dragon capsule on a high-altitude escape test to demonstrate the performance ship’s launch abort engines.

In this video, the astronauts are seen suiting up inside the Operations and Checkout Building at KSC, riding inside a Tesla automobile to pad 39A, then taking an elevator to the 265-foot-level. Hurley and Behnken walked down the crew access arm to the white room, where they would board the Crew Dragon during a real countdown.

Video credit: NASA/Michelle Stone and Chris Chamberland

** Time lapse view of the booster return and landing for the launch of Bulgaria-1 in 2017:

** SpaceX continues to operate most all of its projects despite work restrictions during the corona pandemic: How SpaceX is prospering in the year of the coronavirus pandemic | TheHill

SpaceX’s Elon Musk must count himself lucky that commercial space is considered an “essential industry” while the coronavirus pandemic ravages the world. The designation has allowed SpaceX to not only survive but to prosper as the company continues its efforts to open the space frontier, both in partnership with NASA and alone.

**** Starship

****** The collapse of the prototype Starship SN3 was due to an incorrect sequence of commands, according to Elon Musk. The lower tank was depressurized while the upper tank was still full of liquid nitrogen, leading to a collapse of the structure.

See also:

****** The Raptors for a Starship prototype strike a pose:

****** Boca Chica facilities as seen from a virtual sky: Boca Chica Starship Launch Pad [LN2 corrected] (virtual flyover, april 2nd 2020) – Alex Rex on YouTube

This short video shows a virtual flight over the Starship Launch Pad area in Boca Chica, TX on April 2nd, 2020. It is kept as simple as possible with major focus on BUILDINGS, JIGS and STARSHIP-Parts. For future updates, please support my work via https://www.paypal.me/alexrexdesign This is the LN2 corrected Version! → Also check the 3D-Model Viewer: https://p3d.in/4j9Pg For other design projects, please visit my webpage: http://www.alexrex.de/ Or check out my instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/alexrex.de/

****** April 5: SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN3 disassembly continues as SN4 takes shape – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

SpaceX teams continued to dismantle the Starship SN3 prototype after a collapse during a cryogenic proof test. Meanwhile, the construction of the SN4 prototype continues at speed. Video and Photos by Mary (@BocaChicaGal) for NSF. Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** April 7: SpaceX Boca Chica – Salvaging Starship SN3’s Thrust Section – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

SpaceXers have been salvaging Starship SN3’s Thrust Section in amid a buzz of activity in Boca Chica. Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** April 8: SpaceX Boca Chica – Laying the groundwork for Starship SN4 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

A relatively quiet day in Boca Chica, per Starship Assembly in the open, but SpaceXers have been busy at work preparing the launch site and associated buildings. Video and Photos via Mary (@BocaChicaGal).

** Webcasts:

**** SpaceX Starship News, SN4 to reuse thrust section, Starship Users Guide surprises and Tesla UpdatesMarcus House

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Space transport roundup – Apr.4.2020

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

** Starship prototype SN3 collapses near end of pressure testing of propellant tanks. Rather than an explosive rupture as in previous tank failures, the center tank just crumpled and collapsed. Apparently, the weight of the liquid nitrogen in the upper tank overcame the structural integrity of the middle tank. This could have happened if the middle tank was de-pressurized prematurely. This is the sort of mistake Elon Musk was referring to in a Tweeter posting after the failure in which he said, “this may have been a test configuration mistake.”

See also:

Find more SpaceX items below

** Japan’s Oita airport becomes alternative site for Virgin Orbit LauncherOne missions: Oita Partners with Virgin Orbit to Establish First Horizontal Spaceport in Asia | Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit, the California-based small satellite launch company, has announced a new partnership with Oita Prefecture to bring horizontal launch to Japan. With the support of regional partners ANA Holdings Inc. and the Space Port Japan Association, Virgin Orbit has identified Oita Airport as its preferred pilot launch site — yet another addition to the company’s growing global network of horizontal launch sites — in pursuit of a mission to space from Japan as early as 2022.

Virgin Orbit and Oita Prefecture have agreed to commence a joint technical study to facilitate development of the future spaceport.

Oita Prefecture is widely recognized in Japan as not only a top-ranked tourist destination, but also as a hub for numerous high-tech ecosystems, including the steel, petrochemical, semiconductor, and automobile industries. The Oita Prefectural Government now has ambitions to extend that leadership into the space domain.

** Booster returned to earth via parachute during the latest Chinese Long March 3B launch. This is to limit potential damage to

** Sierra Nevada reports on progress with the VORTEX propulsion system: SNC Leverages VORTEX® Engine Technology for DARPA’s OpFires Program

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, reached a major milestone in the advancement of hypersonic propulsion with its patented VORTEX engine, advancing to the next phase of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Operational Fires (OpFires) program.

Through OpFires, SNC is extending its hybrid VORTEX engine capabilities to advanced, deep throttling, restartable propulsion systems. The system utilizes benign solid fuel with a liquid oxidizer, both of which are storable on Earth and in space. Recent testing shows positive results in being able to package significant energy into a small volume that will have the ability for deep throttling and smooth restart capabilities on command. “The VORTEX flows integrated into the hybrid significantly improves performance of the hybrid engine” said Dr. Marty Chiaverini, director of Propulsion Systems at SNC.

“This program opens up a new market for SNC for preplanned or on-demand propulsion control capabilities that are applicable to both military and beyond Earth orbit propulsion capabilities,” said Tom Crabb, vice president of SNC’s Propulsion & Environmental Systems business unit. “Deep throttling and restart capabilities expand the tools for smart and unpredictable trajectories for various vehicles and systems.”

The first two phases of DARPA’s OpFires program focus on the propulsion technologies required to deliver diverse payloads to a variety of ranges. Since Phase 1 contract award, SNC has made critical discoveries in advanced rocket motor technology for the OpFires upper stage, completing more than 30 motor trials from subscale through full size. SNC hopes to demonstrate these engines in flight and offer the engines to new, promising vehicle systems.

In addition to the deep throttling, restartable, storable system for DARPA, SNC is expanding its propulsion capabilities and products with near-term flight for its Dream Chaser® spaceplane Reaction Control System, maturation of upper stage engines and development of other liquid storable engines for spacecraft, lunar, and other exploration and protection applications. SNC is also co-investing with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) for development of the engine for USAF needs. For more information, visit www.sncorp.com.

** Plans to fly Blue Origin‘s New Shepard this month sparks dissension within the company ranks due to corona virus concerns:

The company management responds that they are taking proper precautions and not planning any layoffs: Bezos’ Blue Origin says it is hiring, denies report of possible layoffs – CNBC

** Firefly to apply launcher technology to lunar lander: In parallel with rocket development, Firefly launches lunar lander initiative – Spaceflight Now

A souped-up version of the Israeli Beresheet moon lander built in Texas could be ready to carry NASA science and technology payloads to the lunar surface before the end of 2022, according to officials from Firefly Aerospace.

Firefly’s Genesis lander is one of several major projects being developed by the company headquartered just north of Austin, Texas.

The company is also developing the Alpha small satellite launcher, and a bigger rocket named Beta is on the drawing board.

Officials hope to learn this month whether NASA will sign Firefly to deliver experiments to the moon.

Genesis Lunar Lander proposed by Firefly and partners for missions to the Moon’s south pole in 2022. Credits: Firefly

See also:

** Briefs:

==================

Check out the
The Lurio Report
for news and analysis of key developments in NewSpace

The latest issue:
Starship Factory, Axiom’s Modules, Starliner Revelations
Vol. 15, No. 2, March 28, 2020

Space Frontier Foundation Award for NewSpace Journalism

==================

** SpaceX:

** Cargo Dragon for CRS-20 mission to depart from ISS and return to Earth on April 6th: NASA TV to Air U.S. Cargo Ship Departure from Space Station | NASA

Filled with more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo, a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station Monday, April 6. NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast its departure live beginning at 9:30 a.m. EDT.

Robotic flight controllers at mission control in Houston will issue commands at 9:52 a.m. to release Dragon using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Drew Morgan of NASA will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.

Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station, then execute a deorbit burn as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown around 3:40 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean, southwest of Long Beach, California. The splashdown will not air on NASA TV.

Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket March 6 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and arrived at the space station three days later.

** NASA’s “retro, modern” worm logo festoons the side of the Falcon 9 booster for the crew demo mission set to go to the ISS in May: The Worm is Back! | NASA

The worm is back. And just in time to mark the return of human spaceflight on American rockets from American soil.

The retro, modern design of the agency’s logo will help capture the excitement of a new, modern era of human spaceflight on the side of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle that will ferry astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the Demo-2 flight, now scheduled for mid- to late May.

NASA’s “worm” logo on the side of the booster for the first Crew Dragon flight with astronauts.

** Tests continue in preparation for first crewed flight of Dragon 2 to the ISS: NASA Flickr

On Monday, March 30, 2020 at a SpaceX processing facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, SpaceX successfully completed a fully integrated test of critical crew flight hardware ahead of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program; the first flight test with astronauts onboard the spacecraft. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley participated in the test, which included flight suit leak checks, spacecraft sound verification, display panel and cargo bin inspections, seat hardware rotations, and more. Photo credit: SpaceX

KSC-20200330-PH-SPX01_0001

See also:

** Watch astronauts rehearse arrival at the pad and entering Crew Dragon. This is part of the preparation for the first crewed Dragon 2 mission to the ISS:

**** Starship

****** New design for the Starship  legs:

****** The Starship takes advantage of the connection to Tesla: SpaceX Starship outfitted with Tesla battery packs and motors – Teslarati

Following in the footsteps of the late Mk1 vehicle, SpaceX’s latest Starship prototype has been outfitted with several Tesla battery packs and motors over the last few weeks.

CEO Elon Musk has confirmed in the past that SpaceX intends to try to use Tesla batteries to power Starship rockets and Tesla motors to drive the ships’ large aerodynamic control surfaces. By all appearances, a Tesla Model S motor’s appearance on the exterior of a Starship prototype recently moved to the launch pad is a first for SpaceX. However, in 2019, SpaceX at one point planned to use and even installed battery packs on Starship Mk1 components before the ship was prematurely destroyed during testing. The nosecone those battery packs were installed in still sits in the middle of SpaceX’s growing Boca Chica rocket factory.

For Starship SN3, the purpose of its ~200 kWh of battery power is rather self-explanatory. The purpose of the Tesla Model S motor recently installed on its side is much less clear.

****** Videos from the NASASpaceflight YouTube channel show activities leading up to the SN3 test failure plus some scenes of the cleanup:

****** March 31: SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN3 Test Readiness/SN4 Preps

******  April 2: SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN3 comes to life as SN4 waits in the wings

****** April 3: SpaceX’s Starship SN3 prototype fails cryogenic proof test

****** April 3:  SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN3 remains dismantled

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Space transport roundup – March.31.2020

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

** SpaceX contracted by NASA for cargo delivery services to lunar orbit station: NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Gateway Logistics Services | NASA

Illustration of the SpaceX Dragon XL as it is deployed from the Falcon Heavy’s second stage in high Earth orbit on its way to the Gateway in lunar orbit. Credits: SpaceX

NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, as the first U.S. commercial provider under the Gateway Logistics Services contract to deliver cargo, experiments and other supplies to the agency’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The award is a significant step forward for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.

At the Moon, NASA and its partners will gain the experience necessary to mount a historic human mission to Mars.

SpaceX will deliver critical pressurized and unpressurized cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway, such as sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface.

“This contract award is another critical piece of our plan to return to the Moon sustainably,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The Gateway is the cornerstone of the long-term Artemis architecture and this deep space commercial cargo capability integrates yet another American industry partner into our plans for human exploration at the Moon in preparation for a future mission to Mars.”

NASA is planning multiple supply missions in which the cargo spacecraft will stay at the Gateway for six to 12 months at a time. These firm-fixed price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts for logistics services guarantee two missions per logistics services provider with a maximum total value of $7 billion across all contracts as additional missions are needed.

Eric Berger talks with two NASA Artemis program managers about the benefits of the Dragon XL services for the Gateway: NASA officials outline plans for building a Lunar Gateway in the mid-2020s | Ars Technica

Ars: It seems to me that Dragon has some capability to really add some volume to Gateway. Can you talk a little bit about its capabilities?

[Mark Wiese, Deep Space Logistics manager]: We went back and looked at some of the lessons learned from Commercial Resupply Services (CRS), and the early missions of CRS really didn’t have the capability within the modules to support research. If you look at SpaceX’s first two or three missions and look at where we are on SpaceX’s 20th mission, the capabilities that Dragon offers for research are significantly improved, and so we took that into account.

[Dan Hartman, Gateway program manager]: We’re going to put payloads on the inside, and we’ve got quite a bit of power allocated from the Dragon XL for that. We’ve got upmass allocated for payloads inside and then we can also fly payloads on the outside with power and tied into their communication systems so we can get some research back down, real time on the way to the Moon, and while attached at the Moon. And then quite honestly, we don’t need the logistics mission up there for six months or a year just to support a lunar mission. But we wanted to take advantage of the extra volume, the extra research accommodations, where we could keep it attached, and we could run science. Dragon also has got the automated rendezvous and docking system that they will be using on their CRS-2 vehicles, very similar to their Crew Dragon. And so, the docking system, you can come and go. We were planning to do that remotely without crew in there. And so, we think we’re set up for a really good platform to conduct research for the long haul.

See also

** SpaceX released the Starship Users Guide V1 (pdf). At 6 pages, it is really just an initial outline of a UG but it is another step in convincing the world that the Starship is going to become a reality in the not so distant future.

See also: SpaceX releases a Payload User’s Guide for its Starship rocket | Ars Technica

Find more SpaceX items below

** Stratolaunch unveils hypersonic vehicle designs. The vehicles will be air launched from the company’s gigantic carrier aircraft, sometimes referred to as Roc.  The initial goal is development of Talon-A

Talon-A is a fully reusable, autonomous, liquid rocket-powered Mach 6-class hypersonic vehicle with a length of 28 feet (8.5 m), wingspan of 11.3 feet (3.4 m), and a launch weight of approximately 6,000 pounds (2,722 Kg). The Talon-A will conduct over 1-minute of hypersonic flight testing, and glide back for an autonomous, horizontal landing on a conventional runway. The vehicle will also be capable of autonomous take-off, under its own power, via a conventional runway.

Talon-A hypersonic text vehicle in flight. Credits: Stratolaunch

Following the death of founder and owner Paul Allen in 2018, the company announced that it was giving up on plans to become an orbital launch provider using rockets launched from beneath the Roc. There was talk the company would even close down after the first successful flight of Roc in April of 2019. Instead Stratolaunch was acquired by Cerberus Capital Management in the summer of 2019 and the company became focused on using Roc for hypersonic research.

Hypersonic propulsion and vehicle design have become top priorities for the US Air Force in response to heightened Chinese and Russian activity in these areas. While the military is focused primarily on hypersonic missiles and projectiles, development of hypersonic transports are also of interest.

Talon Z would be the follow-on hypersonic vehicle to the Talon-A. No details of its design have been revealed yet.

Company management has indicated that several years from now they expect  to return to the orbital space transport challenge with the development of  Black Ice:

Black Ice is a fully reusable space plane that enables advanced on-orbit capabilities and cargo return. Initial designs optimized for cargo launch, with a follow-on variant capable of transporting crew.

Black Ice is a design for a fully reusable plane. Credits: Stratolaunch

More about the company and its hypersonic plans:

** The ULA Atlas V launch of the USAF’s AEHF-6 satellite last week was a success. See the previous roundup for information on the launch and the satellite.

** China prepares crew spacecraft for April test flight: China Readies New Spaceship for April Liftoff – Leonard David

China’s prototype of a new-generation piloted spaceship is scheduled to launch with no crew in mid to late April on the maiden flight of the Long March-5B carrier rocket, a variant of the Long March-5.

**** China’s new crewed spacecraft is getting ready for launch – China Central Television (CCTV)

China’s new-generation crewed spacecraft is being prepared for launch at the Wenchang Space Launch Center, Hainan Province, China. Compared with the Shenzhou spacecraft, it is larger, designed to be reusable and it can carry both astronauts and cargo. The spacecraft (CMS) is scheduled to be launched in April. Yang Qing, chief designer of CMS, China Academy of Space Technology, explains the measures taken to ensure the work quality.

The docking hatch for China’s crew vehicle appears to be compatible with the ISS standard: China’s new crew spacecraft looks like it could dock with the International Space Station | Space.com

** Watching a big rocket firing up close:

** Rocket briefs:

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Check out the
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for news and analysis of key developments in NewSpace

The latest issue:
Starship Factory, Axiom’s Modules, Starliner Revelations
Vol. 15, No. 2, March 28, 2020

Space Frontier Foundation Award for NewSpace Journalism

==================

** SpaceX:

** A Merlin engine on the first stage booster shut down prematurely during the latest Starlink launch. The two US agencies that rely on SpaceX rockets are involved in the company’s investigation into what happened with the booster, which was on its 5th flight:  NASA, U.S. military reviewing SpaceX engine malfunction – Spaceflight Now

** Astronaut selection for the first operational Crew Dragon mission has been announced: NASA Adds Shannon Walker to First Operational Crewed SpaceX Mission | NASA

NASA has assigned astronaut Shannon Walker to the first operational crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.

Walker will join NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover Jr., as well as Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), for a six-month expedition aboard the unique space laboratory.

This mission will be the first in a series of regular, rotational flights to the station following NASA’s certification of the new crewed system following completion and validation of SpaceX’s test flight with astronauts, known as Demo-2. This test is expected to take place in mid-to-late May as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Pending the successful Demo-2 test, Walker, Glover, Hopkins, and Noguchi will launch aboard Crew Dragon on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That launch is targeted for later this year.

** The Demo-2 astronauts are busy with simulations of the mission, which could happen as early as mid-May: NASA, SpaceX Simulate Upcoming Crew Mission with Astronauts | NASA

Joint teams from NASA and SpaceX continue making progress on the first flight test with astronauts to the International Space Station by completing a series of mission simulations from launch to landing. The mission, known as Demo-2, is a close mirror of the company’s uncrewed flight test to station in March 2019, but this time with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft launching atop a Falcon 9 rocket as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

Over the last several months, key members of flight control teams working from NASA’s Johnson and Kennedy Space Centers and SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, simulated different phases of the upcoming mission while the Demo-2 astronaut crew practiced procedures from inside a realistic simulator of Crew Dragon.

“The simulations were a great opportunity to practice procedures and to coordinate decision-making for the mission management team, especially with respect to weather,” said Michael Hess, manager of Operations Integration for CCP. “Simulation supervisors do a great job at picking cases that really make the team think and discuss.”

Recent simulations saw teams execute timelines from hatch closure to undocking with the space station — as well as a free flight in preparation for re-entry and splashdown. In March, the control teams and crew ran through a simulated mission starting at prelaunch and continuing through ascent and eventual rendezvous with the station.

This recent sim makes the excitement all the more tangible, especially for the greater NASA team.

“On Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20, SpaceX teams in Firing Room 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the company’s Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, along with NASA flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, executed a full simulation of launch and docking of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley (front) participating in SpaceX’s flight simulator. ” Credits: SpaceX

**** Starship

**** The SN3 vehicle was moved to the launch pad site over the weekend. Pressure tests of the propellant tanks and firings of the Raptor engines are expected next week according to these road closures: Space X – Cameron County. Check out the series of videos below showing the recent rapid assembly of the SN3 and the building of the components for SN4.

More about the SN3 plan: SpaceX Preparing Starship SN3 for Ground and Flight Testing – NASASpaceFlight.com

**** Interesting new features in the latest Starship prototype such as an improved design for the legs: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s latest Starship photos reveal surprise landing legs – Teslarati

****** SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN3 Pre-rollout, Launch Site preps, SN4 preps – Mar.27.2020 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship SN3 prepares for its trip to the launch pad – which is also completing preparations ahead of SN3 testing – while parts of Starship SN4 wait in the wings. Videos and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** Starship SN3 Moves To Launch Pad Timelapse – Mar.29.2020 – LabPadre – YouTube

****** Starship SN3 Lifted to Test Stand at SpaceX Boca Chica Sunday – March 29 – SPadre – YouTube

****** SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN3 prepares for proof testing – Mar.30.2020 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

Starship SN3 is being prepared for proof testing with LN2 at the Boca Chica launch site. A successful test will pave the way for a Static Fire (no sooner than) later in the week. Video and Photos by Mary (@BocaChicaGal) for NSF. Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer)

****** Some shots of SN3 from Elon:

** Webcast rocket reports:

**** NSF Live: SpaceX Starship SN3 preps for testing, NASA selects Dragon XL, and moreNASASpaceflight – YouTube

NSF Live is NASASpaceflight’s new live show which will stream weekly at 5 pm Eastern. Each week we will rotate through various hosts and special guests. Topics for this week’s show:
– Starship SN3 is preparing for testing in Boca Chica
– Launch industry disruption
– Atlas V launches AEHF-6
– NASA, SpaceX reveal plans for Dragon XL
– Astra has an anomaly
– Crew Dragon parachute testing update
Episode #1 is hosted by John Galloway (Kerbal Space Academy), Chris Gebhardt (Assistant Managing Editor at NASASpaceflight.com), and Thomas Burghardt (Writer NASASpaceflight.com).

**** SpaceX Starship SN3 Ready for Testing, SpaceX Dragon XL announced

Download NordLocker Free at https://nordlocker.net/marcushouse. Use the coupon code “marcushouse” to get 32% off the 1 year premium plan. Another jam-packed week of news. The Starship SN3 is ready for testing and a huge news today with SpaceX Dragon XL announced. SpaceX development of the SN3 Starship is still steaming ahead with the main body now stacked and more news dropping every day. The lost booster from the Starlink #5 missions is getting a little more interesting now with NASA now involved in the investigation. We’re hoping that isn’t going to cause any new delays with the upcoming Crew Dragon mission. Also, some tough news for fans of Bigelow space and Oneweb among other things, so yes, it has been an interesting week. I’ve got to say though, the awesome news breaking with NASA announcing that SpaceX will be delivering cargo to the Lunar gateway using the mystery Dragon XL on a Falcon Heavy is really exciting.

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Space transport roundup – Mar.25.2020

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

** ULA Atlas V set to launch the sixth AEHF (Advanced Extremely High Frequency) communications satellite for the Air Force. The two hour launch window on Thursday opens at 2:57 pm EDT (1857 GMT).

The Atlas V ready for rollout on March 25, 2020 from the Vertical Integration Facility to the pad at Space Launch Complex-41 for the launch of AEHF-6. Credits: ULA

Mission profile:

United Launch Alliance will use an Atlas V 551 rocket to launch the sixth and final spacecraft in the Lockheed Martin-built Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) series for the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center. AEHF satellites provide global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms. Atlas V rockets successfully launched the first five AEHF satellites between 2010 and 2019.

** Air Force will keep Cape Canaveral open: Military officials committed to keeping Cape Canaveral open for launches – Spaceflight Now

The military-run Eastern Range at Cape Canaveral remains ready to support upcoming launches — including an Atlas 5 flight Thursday — amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Tuesday.

The next launch scheduled from Cape Canaveral is set to take off Thursday, when a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket carries a U.S. Space Force communications satellite into orbit. Preparations for that mission are on schedule, officials said Tuesday.

“We’re going to continue to do what we do best, which is provide assured access to space, while also taking care of our airmen and their families,” said Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess, commander of the 45th Space Wing, which oversees Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Space Coast.

Schiess told reporters Tuesday that the Pentagon has directed military commanders to protect their teams during the coronavirus pandemic, while continuing critical missions and supporting the government’s response to fight the spread of the virus.

** Soyuz 2.1B rocket successfully orbits 34 OneWeb satellites:

** China launches Long March-2C rocket with remote sensing satellites

After losing the first Long March-7A one week ago, China launched a new group of triplet satellites for the Chuangxin-5 (CX-5) constellation. Launched under the name Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-6, the three satellites were orbited by a Long March-2C launch vehicle from the LC3 Launch Complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The launch took place at 03:43 UTC.

Like the previous missions on the series, this mission is once again classed as involving new remote sensing birds that will be used to “conduct electromagnetic probes and other experiments.”

As was the case in previous launches of the Yaogan Weixing series, analysts believe this class of satellites is used for military purposes, in particular forming a high-revisit smallsat constellation for signal intelligence missions or imaging activities.

** Astra rocket damaged on pad in preparation for orbital launch from Alaskan spaceport this week: Astra rocket damaged in pre-launch tests – SpaceNews.com

In an email late March 23, Chris Kemp, chief executive of Astra, said the rocket had been damaged in prelaunch testing earlier in the day. “We’ll be rescheduling launch,” he said, but had not selected a new launch date. He did not elaborate on the damage the rocket sustained.

Local radio station KMXT reported March 23 that there had been an “anomaly” at the launch site on Kodiak Island that prompted an emergency response. There were no injuries reported, but the area was cordoned off.

“The area is still hazardous and should be avoided. There will be personnel on site overnight to monitor,” Mark Lester, chief executive of Alaska Aerospace, which operates the spaceport, told KMXT after the emergency response concluded.

Here is an earlier report on the launch plan: Astra readies for possible launch attempt next week – Spaceflight Now

After missing out on an opportunity to win up to $12 million in prize money through DARPA’s Launch Challenge earlier this month, Astra is gearing up for another possible orbital launch attempt next week from Alaska, the company’s chief executive said Friday.

Chris Kemp, Astra’s co-founder and CEO, said in an email Friday to Spaceflight Now that Astra is not planning to launch Monday, but the company is “working towards a possible launch attempt later in the week” from the Pacific Spaceport Complex at Kodiak Island, Alaska.

The company’s first small satellite launcher was scheduled to take off during a two-week window in late February and early March in a bid to win the DARPA Launch Challenge. But schedule delays and an aborted countdown on the final day of the Launch Challenge window March 2 kept Astra from winning a $2 million prize from DARPA, which would have allowed the company to proceed to a second mission later this month with a $10 million prize attached.

** Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut posts a video about rocket pollution: How much do rockets pollute? – Everyday Astronaut

** The Chinese startup launch company Galactic Energy plans to put a payload into orbit this summer: Galactic Energy Prepares Ceres-1 Rocket for First Launch – IEEE Spectrum

Galactic Energy, a low-key private Chinese rocket firm, celebrated its second birthday in February. That’s early days for a launch company, and yet the company is set to make its first attempt to reach orbit this June.

The rocket is named Ceres-1, after the largest body in the asteroid belt, and will launch from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. With three solid fuel stages and a liquid propellant fourth stage, it will be able to lift 350 kilograms of payload to an altitude of 200 kilometers in low Earth orbit.

The firm’s ability to move this quickly is due to a mix of factors—strong corporate leadership, an experienced team, and policy support from the Chinese state.

Galactic Energy illustration of a Ceres-1 rocket on the launch pad. Credits: Galactic Energy

** Rocket Lab’s next launch delayed due to coronavirus concerns: COVID-19 Update: Rocket Lab has postponed the launch of its next mission in response to the COVID-19 situation. | Rocket Lab

In response to the evolving COVID-19 situation, we have paused launch preparations for our next mission to protect the health and safety of Rocket Lab team members, our families, and the wider community.

The mission was scheduled to lift off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand on 30 March UTC. Launch preparations have been paused, however, following the New Zealand Government’s announcement on 23 March NZDT to implement the Level 4 COVID-19 response which requires most businesses to close and instructs people to stay at home. We commend the government for taking this drastic but necessary step to limit the spread of COVID-19.

** Briefs:

** SpaceX:

** On one of the final tests of the Crew Dragon parachute system there was a serious problem with the helicopter and the mockup used to simulate the spacecraft. This was unrelated to the performance of the parachute system itself: SpaceX reports problem during Crew Dragon parachute test – SpaceNews.com

SpaceX said March 24 that one of the final parachute tests for its Crew Dragon spacecraft went awry, a problem it blamed on the test setup and not a flaw with the parachutes themselves.

In a statement, SpaceX said that it attempted to perform a parachute test by dropping a test article from a helicopter. The company didn’t describe the test article, but in some past tests it has used a mockup of a Crew Dragon spacecraft.

** NASA joins effort to diagnose premature Merlin engine shutdown on the latest launch of Starlink satellites: NASA to participate in SpaceX engine anomaly investigation – SpaceNews.com

**** Falcon 9 launch of Argentine SAOCOM 1B radar satellite postponed due to coronavirus issues: Coronavirus concerns force postponement of SpaceX launch with Argentine satellite – Spaceflight Now

Concerns about the coronavirus pandemic have prompted officials to postpone the planned March 30 launch of Argentina’s SAOCOM 1B radar observation satellite from Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, officials said Tuesday.

Travel restrictions imposed by coronavirus to slow the spread of the COVID-19 viral disease, and restrictions on non-essential work, have hindered space activity around the world. CONAE, Argentina’s space agency, said the launch of the country’s SAOCOM 1B Earth-imaging spacecraft will be postponed.

CONAE did not announce a new target launch date for the SAOCOM 1B mission.

**** Starship

As usual for these roundups, there is yet more news from Boca Chica on the acceleration of Starship prototype construction. Local stay-at-home proclamations for coronavirus protection look to be the only way that the Starshp development will be slowed. Welders wanted: SpaceX is hiring to ramp up production of stainless steel Starship | Space.com

SpaceX is looking to hire lots of folks to help ramp up production and testing of its ambitious Starship Mars-colonizing architecture over the coming months — and the company recently issued a public recruiting pitch.

“The design goal for Starship is three flights per day on average [per ship], which equates to roughly 1,000 flights per year at greater than 100 tons per flight. This means every 10 ships would yield 1 megaton per year to orbit,” Jessica Anderson, a lead manufacturing engineer at SpaceX, said last week during the launch webcast for the company’s latest batch of Starlink internet satellites.

The following  videos show the fervent pace of progress in Starship building in south Texas:

****** SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship Nose Cone preps – Facility growth – Mar.20.2020 NASASpaceflight – YouTube

As work continues on further expanding the production area of SpaceX Boca Chica, engineers continued work on Starship SN3 and the nosecone (which may be for SN3 or at least SN4). Videos and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited By Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer)

****** SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN3 Engine Section Mated – Mar.21.2020 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

The Starship SN3 Engine Section was mated on Saturday ahead of stacking with the rest of the vehicle (which is expected to take place in the VAB). Videos and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited By Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN3 in final preps for full stacking – Mar.22.2020 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

With the engine section heading into the big tent for final preparations, the stage is set for next week’s stacking of the entire SN3 Starship at SpaceX Boca Chica ahead of a Static Fire and test hop campaign. Videos and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited By Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** SpaceX Boca Chica – Starship SN4 rings, SN3 preps, Launch Site readiness – Mar.23.2020 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

As Starship SN3 continues stacking preps, the launch site is being readied and the first rings and domes for Starship SN4 were being worked on. Videos and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited By Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** SpaceX Boca Chica Starship Update March 23SPadre – YouTube

****** SpaceX Boca Chica – Launch site preps underway as Starship SN3 nears completion – Mar.24.2020 – NASASpaceflight – YouTube

The Boca Chica launch site is being readied for the upcoming Starship SN3 test campaign which will see a static fire and potentially a short hop. Meanwhile, Starship SN4 construction is already well underway. Videos and Photos from Mary (@bocachicagal). Edited By Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer).

****** Equipment from Florida delivered via SpaceX ship: SpaceX Texas Starship factory accepts third Florida hardware shipment – Teslarati

SpaceX support ship GO Discovery has successfully completed its third trip from Florida to Texas, ferrying additional rocket production hardware to the company’s fast-expanding South Texas Starship factory.

Captured on arrival by local spaceflight fan and observer SPadre (@SpacePadreIsle), the SpaceX ship entered Port of Brownsville on March 22nd, carrying a few minor pieces of equipment that SpaceX’s Starship factory will likely find helpful down the road. The company’s South Texas presence has undergone a meteoric period of growth in the last few months, hiring hundreds to staff a Starship factory that is now churning out rocket parts on the rugged South Texas Gulf Coast.

****** Marcus House provides frequent video reports on SpaceX activities. Here is a recent update:

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