Monthly Dose of Space - February 2024

Monthly Dose of Space - February 2024


Welcome to our fifth Monthly Dose of Space! In this monthly newsletter, we bring you major news from the past month we haven't covered in our weekly newsletters. February has been another busy month, so let's jump into it!

SpaceX

The last month has seen SpaceX teams work towards the third flight of its Starship-Super Heavy vehicle. On the 6th, teams were seen at Ship 28 where it was having work done to its tiles towards the top of the vehicle.

A few days later, on the 8th, a series of tests happened at the orbital launch mount which were likely purge tests of its quick disconnect systems. Also on the 8th Booster 10 finally headed back to the launch site, being transported on one of the self-propelled modular transporters. In the early hours of the 9th, Booster 10 was lifted onto the orbital launch mount. Ship 28 was also spotted being prepared for its return to the launch site not long after Booster 10's lift.

The 11th saw Ship 28 being stacked atop of Booster 10 on the orbital launch mount. The next day on the 12th, Ship 28 was destacked from the Booster for unknown reasons, it is believed there may have been problems with the Ship quick disconnect arm. Another day later on the 13th, Ship 28 was stacked on top of Booster 10, again. Once stacked the ship performed a small test of its flaps. On the 14th, it's believed SpaceX attempted to perform a wet dress rehearsal but aborted the test, the water deluge system was tested however. A few days later early on the 16th, the fire suppression system was tested on the orbital launch mount. A few hours later another wet dress rehearsal was attempted but was once again aborted part way through the test.

On the 19th with Ship 28 being moved from the launch tower to sub-orbital Pad B at the launch site. Later the same day four tower segments from Florida arrived ahead of the construction of a second launch tower at Starbase. A few hours into the night, Booster 10 was also lifted off of the orbital launch mount. The 20th had a truck deliver explosives to the launch site where SpaceX teams quickly took them to the bunker. The explosives are likely for the flight termination system in the event of a failure with Starship-Super Heavy's third flight. The 20th also saw Booster 10 being rolled back to the production site and lifted onto a work stand.

The 26th saw Ship 28 perform a 'spin prime' test on sub-orbital Pad B. The launch tower was also seen venting during the test. A few hours later on the 26th, the Federal Aviation Administration closed its mishap investigation into the second flight of the Starship-Super Heavy vehicle, that launch occurred back on the 19th of November 2023.

To end the month, the 28th had Super Heavy Booster 10 roll from the production site to the launch site where it was later stacked during the day. Ship 28 was also removed from sub-orbital Pad B and moved next to the launch tower on the 29th. As of writing on the 1st of March, Ship 28 is currently being stacked atop of Booster 10.

News of the Month

Last month saw news from upcoming space companies and a new giant launch vehicle set to debut within the year.

New Glenn tests on its launch pad

New Glenn on its launch pad at Launch Complex 36. ©Blue Origin
New Glenn on its launch pad at Launch Complex 36. ©Blue Origin

After rolling out to its launch pad on the 21st Blue Origin was spotted performing what is believed to be a fuelling test of the launch vehicle on the 28th. It is unclear at this time how much fuel was loaded onto the vehicle due to poor visibility from public viewing areas but venting was seen from its ground support equipment meaning that fuels were flowing towards, or into, the vehicle.

Currently, the vehicle does not have any first-stage engines installed but will have them installed depending on the results of this testing. The hardware on this New Glenn vehicle mostly does not consist of flight hardware with reportedly only the first-stage tanks being destined for flight.

The tank testing on the pad is a major milestone ahead of New Glenn's first launch, which Blue Origin is confident will happen this year.

New Glenn is Blue Origin's in-development partially reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle. The rocket is expected to be manufactured almost entirely by the company. New Glenn is expected to launch from Launch Complex 36 in Cape Canaveral, located in Florida.

Space Circling secures $14 million in funding

Qialong-1 during a test firing. ©Space Circling
Qialong-1 during a test firing. ©Space Circling

Chinese launch startup Space Circling, also known as Shaanxi Tianhui Aerospace Technology Co Ltd, announced on the 18th of February that it had secured more than 100 million Yuan Renminbi, approximately 14 million United States dollars, as part of its Series A funding in December 2023.

Investors in this round of funding are believed to be Changsha Kaifu District Zhongxin High-tech Fund, Xi’an Fulao Fund, SIRI New Materials, Mianyang Kefa Fund, and Xi’an Talent Fund.

The funding is believed to be going towards industrial infrastructure to allow the company to mass produce its Honglong-1 and Qialong-1 rocket engines.

Space Circling is currently planning to develop a launch vehicle called Huilong-1 capable of delivering 5,000 kilograms to sun-synchronus orbit. Long term the company is working on a second launch vehicle called Huilong-2 capable of sending 9,000 kilograms to a geostationary transfer orbit or 25,000 kilograms to a low Earth orbit.

Vast looking to bid on ISS private astronauts mission

A render of SpaceX's Crew Dragon docking to Vast's space station. ©Vast Space
A render of SpaceX's Crew Dragon docking to Vast's space station. ©Vast Space

Vast Space is looking to bid on the fifth and sixth NASA private astronaut missions to the International Space Station. Max Haot, Chief Executive Officer of Vast, said that the company would bid on the two missions to the space station.

The company believes that conducting these missions would allow them to build a better space station, which they plan to launch in the coming years, and offer practice on operating a space station.

If Vast bids on the fifth and sixth private astronaut missions Axiom Space would need to compete with their bid. Axiom Space has been the sole bidder of the private astronaut missions since the Ax-3 mission, this led to Axiom winning what would become the Ax-3 and Ax-4 missions.

Launches of the Month

This month saw nineteen launches worldwide, if you want to know each launch was we have them all listed below!

February 2nd - Long March 2C for Geely Constellation

The first launch of the month was a Long March 2C launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center carrying eleven satellites to low Earth orbit for Chinese automotive company Geely. Geely is building a constellation in low Earth orbit to support testing of autonomous driving in its cars as well as for inter-vehicle communications.

February 3rd - Smart Dragon 3 with a nine-satellite rideshare

A Smart Dragon 3 launched from a sea launch platform to a sun-synchronous orbit carrying nine satellites for its payload. The nine spacecraft were: DRO-L, Zhixing-2A, DongFangHuiYan-GF01, WeiHai-01 & 02, XingShiDai-18 & 19 & 20, and NEXSAT-1.

February 8th - Falcon 9 with PACE

On the 8th of February, a SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 carrying NASA's PACE spacecraft to a sun-synchronous orbit. The booster for this mission was B1081 making its fourth flight and landed back at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral.

PACE, or Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem mission, is a NASA mission to advance information for assessing the condition of the ocean and atmosphere.

February 9th - Soyuz 2.1v with Kosmos 2575

A Soyuz 2.1v lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome carrying the Kosmos 2575 satellite to a sun-synchronous orbit. Not much is known about the satellite other than it is believed to be for military purposes.

SpaceX launched twenty-two more Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit atop of its Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California. The booster for the mission was B1071 making its fourteenth flight and landing downrange on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You".

February 14th - Falcon 9 with USSF-124

Late on the 14th a Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40, in Florida, carrying four Tranche 0 Tracking Layer missile warning satellites for the United States Space Force. The booster for this mission was B1078 making its seventh flight and landing at Landing Zone 2 back in Cape Canaveral.

February 15th - Soyuz 2.1a with Progress MS-26

A Soyuz 2.1a launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome carrying the Progress MS-26 spacecraft. The spacecraft is carrying 2,518 kilograms of cargo to the International Space Station for the crew onboard.

February 15th - Falcon 9 with Nova-C IM-1

On the 15th another Falcon 9 lifted off, this time from Launch Complex 39A, carrying the Nova-C lunar lander for Intuitive Machines IM-1 mission. This was the first time since Apollo 17 that a spacecraft was launched bound for the Moon from Launch Complex 39A. The booster for this mission is B1060 making its eighteenth flight and landing back at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral.

The lander has since landed on the Moon at 80.13 degrees South and 1.44 degrees East. This was also the first time since 1972 that an American spacecraft has landed on the lunar surface, the last being Apollo 17.

A third Falcon 9 lifted off this week, this time from Space Launch Complex 4E in California carrying another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. The booster for this mission was B1082 making its second flight and landing on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You' downrange.

February 17th - H3 for Test Flight 2

Japan's H3 rocket lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center on the 17th of February for its second test flight mission. The rocket was carrying three payloads to a sun-synchronous orbit for this launch: VEP 4, CE-SAT-1E, and TIRSAT.

February 17th - GSLV Mk II for INSAT-3DS

India launched a GLSV Mk II rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the 17th carrying the INSAT-3DS satellite to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. INSAT-3DS is a weather satellite built by the Indian Space Research Organisation and is expected to be operated by the Indian National Satellite System.

February 18th - Electron for 'On Closer Inspection'

Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1B in the Māhia Peninsula, in New Zealand. The rocket was carrying the ADRAS-J on behalf of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Astroscale. The ADRAS-J satellite plans to rendezvous and approach a piece of orbital debris to demonstrate a safe and secure approach.

February 20th - Falcon 9 with HTS-113BT

A Falcon 9 launched from Space Launch Complex 40 carrying the HTS-113BT telecommunications satellites for PT Telkom Satelit Indonesia. The booster for the mission was B1067 making its seventeenth flight and landing on the drone ship 'Just Read The Instructions' downrange.

Another Falcon 9 launched carrying another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. The mission occurred from Space Launch Complex 4E with the booster for the mission, B1061, making its nineteenth flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

February 23rd - Long March 5 with TJS No. 11

A Long March 5 lifted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Site, for the rocket's seventh mission. The rocket was carrying what is believed to be TJS satellite No. 11 toward a geostationary transfer orbit.

SpaceX launched twenty-four Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission was B1069 making its thirteenth flight and landing on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas' downrange.

February 29th - Soyuz 2.1b with Meteor-M No. 2-4

A Soyuz 2.1b lifted off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome carrying Meteor-M No. 2-4 to a sun-synchronus orbit. The satellites SITRO-AIS 13-28, Zorkiy-2M-2, and Pars 1 were also onboard. Pars 1 is believed to be a satellite from Iran.

February 29th - Long March 3B/E with WHG-01

Also on the 29th, a Long March 3B/E took off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center headed towards a geostationary transfer orbit carrying the WHG-01 satellite. The WHG-01 satellite is believed to be an internet satellite, as of writing it's unclear if the satellite will maneuver itself into a higher orbit.

The last launch of the month was a Falcon 9 carrying twenty-three Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission was B1076 making its eleventh flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'Just Read The Instructions'.

Launches to look out for in March!

March looks to be another busy month too. Listed below are all of the launches expected or very likely to happen next month.

March 3rd - Falcon 9 for Crew-8

SpaceX is expected to launch the Crew-8 mission for NASA, carrying Matthew Dominick, Michael Barrat, Jeanette Epps, and Alexander Grebenkin to the International Space Station.

The launch is expected to take place from Launch Complex 39A and use booster B1083 for its first flight. The Crew Dragon capsule for this mission is believed to be Endeavour.

SpaceX is expected to launch another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit to grow the capabilities of its space-based internet service.

March 4th - Falcon 9 with Transporter 10

SpaceX is expected to launch its tenth Transporter rideshare mission. The launch will head to a sun-synchronus orbit after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California.

March 9th - KAIROS for its maiden flight

Space One is expected to launch its KAIROS launch vehicle from Space Port Kii in Japan. The launch vehicle is believed to be carrying a prototype 'quick response' satellite for the Japanese government.

March 9th - Electron for 'Owl Night Long'

Rocket Lab is expected to launch the StriX-3 satellite for Synspective from Launch Complex 1B, located on the Mahia Peninsula.

March 12th - Falcon 9 with CRS-30

SpaceX is also expected to launch its thirtieth resupply mission to the International Space Station next month. The cargo spacecraft will carry science payloads and supplies to the space station.

March 21st - Soyuz 2.1a with MS-25

Roscosmos is expected to launch the MS-25 mission to the International Space Station carrying a cosmonaut from Russia, a cosmonaut from Belarus, and an astronaut from the United States.

March 30th - Soyuz 2.1b with Resurs-P No.4

A Soyuz 2.1b is expected to launch the Resures-P No.4 satellite to a sun-synchronus orbit. Resures-P No.4 is a commercial Earth observation satellite with a resolution of one meter.

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