Monthly Dose of Space - June 2024

Monthly Dose of Space - June 2024


Welcome to our ninth 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. June has been an incredible month for spaceflight and ends the first half of 2024, so let's jump into it!

SpaceX

Work at Starbase this month started on the 2nd when SpaceX teams were seen clearing out hardware from the proximity of the orbital launch site. Over at the Massey's test site on the 3rd, Ship 26 performed a static fire on the newly installed static fire stand, all future Ship firings are expected at Massey's with the recent demolition of the final suborbital pad late last month.

A few days later on June 6th, Ship 29 atop of Booster 11 lifted off from Texas on the fourth flight test at 2:50 pm Universal Coordinated Time, or 07:50 am Central Time. The flight was a major success with the Booster and Ship landing in close proximity to their targets.

After the flight, work picked up again on the 11th when workers were spotted removing thermal protection tiles near the nose of Ship 30, all of Ship 30's tiles are believed to be replaced ahead of flight five. That same day, parts for a new CC 8800-1 crane were delivered and unloaded at the construction site of Orbital Pad B. The following day on June 12th, Ship 26 returned to the production site from the Massey's test site, it had recently tested a new static fire stand. More parts for the CC 8800-1 crane were also delivered on the 12th. The 12th also saw the 'chopsticks' landing rail perform testing possibly ahead of the fifth flight, this rail dampens the boosters landing on the 'chopsticks'.

Work on the base of the second orbital launch tower at the launch site began on the 13th, with two of the bases for tower sections being installed by the 14th. Walls for the base of the tower were installed between these two points not long after. By the 14th, Ship 30 had a large number of its thermal protection tiles entirely removed.

A few days later, on the 18th, the ship was quick disconnected was straightened, and returned to its normal position for connecting to Starships. On the 19th, the scrapping of yet another old tank shell from the vertical tank farm began, these old tanks were planned to be adequate to fuel a full Starship-Super Heavy stack but their height has made them prone to debris strikes during flight tests.

Booster 14.1, a shorter test article, was spotted departing the Massey's test site, on the 21st, and arrived at the launch site. After arriving it was lifted onto the orbital launch mount. Testing with Booster 14.1 began on the 26th one of the 'chopsticks' was seen moving multiple times toward Booster 14.1 for what appeared to be catch testing. The 'chopsticks' were also raised after moving toward Booster 14.1. This testing was also repeated on the 27th. The 27th also saw Booster 14.1 lifted off of the orbital launch mount and moved out of the launch site. The following day, June 28th, saw tower sections arrive from Kennedy Space Center, along with the 'chopsticks' for the second orbital launch tower.

SpaceX's Starbase teams ended the month of June by preparing for the removal of the final vertical tank farm tanks, continued work on Ship 30's thermal protection tiles, and more construction work on the second orbital launch tower.

News of the Month

June saw Vulcan change its Cert-2 mission payload, one of NASA's spacesuit providers end its contract, Space Pioneer accidentally performing a maiden flight, and LandSpace win an award!

Firefly Aerospace to gain two new launch pads!

A render of Firefly's Alpha launch vehicle lifting off from the Esrange Space Center (left) and on the pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (right). ©Firefly Aerospace
A render of Firefly's Alpha launch vehicle lifting off from the Esrange Space Center (left) and on the pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (right). ©Firefly Aerospace

Firefly Aerospace announced on June 24th that it will operate its Alpha launch vehicle out of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, MARS, in Virginia as early as 2025. Firefly's Alpha launch vehicle would launch from Pad-0A, which would also support the company's in-development Medium Launch Vehicle and Northrop Grumman's Antares 330. The company would also operate a launch control center, horizontal integration facility, and administrative office space in Virginia to support rapid launch capabilities.

A few days later on June 27th the company also announced that it will operate its Alpha launch vehicle from the Esrange Space Center in Sweden no earlier than 2026. According to Firefly, modifications are already underway at the space center for Alpha to fly from Launch Complex 3C. Launches from Esrange are expected to support European launch demands and short-term notice military launches.

In the announcement about gaining a launch pad in Europe, Bill Weber, Cheif Executive Officer of Firefly Aerospace, said:

“The future of spaceflight requires more orbital launch sites across the globe as we continue to see growing demand among domestic and international launch customers,” – “Firefly is incredibly humbled to partner with SSC and become the first U.S. company to launch from continental Europe. Together, we’re unlocking a long-awaited capability for the European satellite market, and we invite those waiting to fly with us on our flight-proven Alpha vehicle.”

Collins Aerospace backs out of ISS EVA suit contract

Collins Aerospace's spacesuit during a demonstration in September 2021. ©Collins Aerospace
Collins Aerospace's spacesuit during a demonstration in September 2021. ©Collins Aerospace

NASA announced on June 26th that it and Collins Aerospace had mutually agreed to descope the existing task orders from NASA and awarded in 2022 and 2023, for delivery of a new extravehicular spacesuit and advanced capabilities. The task orders were under NASA's Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services contract and would have had Collins Aerospace deliver new spacesuits to NASA for use during spacewalks outside of the International Space Station.

The descoping of the task orders includes the ending of the Collins Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services contract and the company performing no further work on the contract. NASA and Collins Aerospace agreed upon these actions after Collins recognized its development timeline would not support NASA's schedule and mission objectives.

The ending of the Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services is expected to have no impact on current spacewalking abilities on the International Space Station as Collins is expected to continue to support NASA's Extravehicular Activity Mobility Unit spacesuits, which were developed for the Space Shuttle in the 1980s.

Vulcan's second flight to carry an inert payload

The Vulcan Cert-2 mission booster ahead of departure from United Launch Alliance's factory in Decatur, Alabama. ©United Launch Alliance
The Vulcan Cert-2 mission booster ahead of departure from United Launch Alliance's factory in Decatur, Alabama. ©United Launch Alliance

United Launch Alliance announced on June 26th that Sierra Space's Dream Chaser is no longer planned to fly on the second Vulcan mission. Dream Chaser allegedly cannot meet the current September 2024 launch date that United Launch Alliance wants to fly its Vulcan Cert-2 mission.

The Cert-2 mission is one of the final milestones to be completed before U.S. national security payloads can fly on Vulcan.

The new payload for the Cert-2 mission will be inert and remain attached to the Centaur upper-stage of Vulcan. Once the Cert-2 Centaur upper-stage is in orbit it is now expected to carry out technology demonstrations and experiments according to Tory Bruno, Chief Executive Officer of United Launch Alliance. He also said the following:

"We’ll conduct some maneuvers post the basic mission just to help us better understand the full capabilities of the Centaur V and to measure some of its attributes"

Tory Bruno also believes that if the Cert-2 mission is successful, Vulcan will fly two additional missions this year, the USSF-87 and USSF-106. Sierra Space and United Launch Alliance are also looking at the next possible launch date for Dream Chaser's demonstration mission to the International Space Station, with it likely now delayed into 2025.

Tianlong-3 static fire takes flight

A video of the unintentional flight during Tianlong-3's static fire via @AJ_FI on X.

Privately owned Chinese launch company Space Pioneer was performing a static fire of its in-development Tianlong-3 launch vehicle when it unexpectedly took flight. Based on a video, and audio, of the test, the vehicle was firing for a believed five seconds on the test stand before entering unintentional powered flight for approximately fourteen seconds.

Space Pioneer's official statement about the incident is that a structural failure occurred between the test stage of the rocket and the static fire stand. The company's statement also said that the test stage fell into a mountain range 1.5 kilometers from the test stand near the City of Gongyi, located in the province of Henan. Satellite imagery and triangulation using available footage place the test stage's impact approximately 1,470 meters from the test stand.

News from local and national outlets in China have reported no casualties, with minor damage to buildings inside the established evacuation zone.

LandSpace wins national award for rocket engine components!

LandSpace's Liu Lei (刘磊) outside of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing holding the award certificate that the company received. ©LandSpace
LandSpace's Liu Lei (刘磊) outside of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing holding the award certificate that the company received. ©LandSpace

On June 24th LandSpace's R&D department won one of China's National Science and Technology Progress Awards at a conference held by the Chinese Government in Beijing. The award was for what LandSpace calls its "Key Technology and Engineering Application of Centrifugal Pumps in Complex and Variable Working Conditions" project which was headed by Liu Lei (刘磊), who is the General Manager of the company's R&D department.

In simpler terms, the award was for LandSpace's work on the turbopumps of its liquid methane and liquid oxygen-burning engines that will be used on its Zhuque series of launch vehicles. LandSpace is believed to be at the forefront of the development and operational use of liquid methane and liquid oxygen-burning engines in China, with this award further reinforcing that belief.

Part of LandSpace's official statement on receiving the award stated the following:

"Winning this award is not only an affirmation of Blue Arrow Aerospace’s (LandSpace) innovative capabilities and technical strength, but also reflects the company’s sense of responsibility and mission to respond to and implement national strategies with practical actions. Blue Arrow Aerospace (LandSpace) has always focused on the country's major strategic needs, achieved breakthroughs in key core technologies, and focused on and strengthened original scientific and technological research as its top priority."

LandSpace is also the first privately owned launch company in China to receive an award for its science and technology efforts.

Launches of the Month

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

SpaceX kicked off yet another month of launches when a batch of Starlink satellites headed low Earth orbit atop of a Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission was B1076, on its fourteenth flight, with a landing on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'.

Another Falcon 9 launched a few days later with twenty Starlink satellites headed to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission was B1067 making its twentieth flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'Just Read the Instructions'.

June 5th - Electron for 'PREFIRE And Ice'

Rocket Lab launched NASA's second PREFIRE, Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment, satellite to polar orbit from Launch Complex 1B. The PREFIRE mission consists of two satellites that will measure the Earth's temperatures at each pole.

June 5th - Atlas V with Starliner Crewed Flight Test

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft finally carried its first crew into orbit for its first crewed flight atop of an Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41. The two crew onboard are Sunita Williams and Barry Wilmore. For more about this launch click here.

June 6th - Ceres-1 with four spacecraft

Galactic Energy launched its third Ceres-1 of 2024 carrying Naxing-3A (纳星三号A星), Naxing-3B (纳星三号B星), TEE-01B (or 地球之眼1号卫星), and Eros into a sun-synchronus orbit. Eros is Galactic Energy's new orbital test platform that can host customer experiments and satellites.

June 6th - Starship-Super Heavy flight four

SpaceX launched its Starship-Super Heavy vehicle for the fourth time on June 6th for its latest test flight. The test flight saw Booster 11 successfully splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico and Ship 29 survive re-entry and splashdown in the Indian Ocean. For more about this mission click here.

Yet another Falcon 9 launched carrying twenty-two Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission was B1069 on its sixteenth flight and successfully landed on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas' downrange.

Yet another batch of Starlink satellites were launched atop of Falcon 9, this time from Space Launch Complex 4E. The booster for this mission was B1061 making its twenty-first flight and successfully landing downrange on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

June 8th - SpaceShipTwo for Galactic 07

Virgin Galactic launched its seventh, and final, commercial suborbital spaceflight mission using VSS Unity. The mission had four passengers and two crew fly into space on a brief hop. VSS Unity's passengers were Andy Sadhwani, Irving Izchak Pergament, Giorgio Manenti, and Tuva Cihangir Atasever. The two crew were Jameel Janjua, and Nicola Pecile. Except for Nicola Pecile, who was on her fourth spaceflight, everyone on board was making their first trip into space.

SpaceX broke a nearly two-week launch lull with a Falcon 9 carrying twenty Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California. The booster for this mission was B1082 on its fifth flight, with it successfully landing downrange on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

June 20th - Electron for 'No Time Toulouse'

Rocket Lab launched its fiftieth Electron rocket with it carrying five satellites for Kinéis' 'Internet of Things' constellation. The rocket flew from Launch Complex 1B, located on the Māhia Peninsula in New Zealand, to sun-synchronus orbit.

June 20th - Falcon 9 with Astra 1P/SES-24

SpaceX performed its first commercial Falcon 9 launch of June from Space Launch Complex 40, in Florida, carrying SES's Astra 1P/SES-24 spacecraft to a geostationary transfer orbit. The booster for this mission was B1080 making its ninth flight and landing successfully on the drone ship 'Just Read The Instructions' downrange.

June 22nd - Long March 2C with SVOM

A Long March 2C blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center carrying the French-Chinese SVOM spacecraft, which will help detect gamma-ray bursts. The Long March 2C successfully placed the spacecraft into its desired low Earth orbit, where it is expected to begin operation in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, during this mission, the Long March 2C booster landed near a residential area. Although the booster was in one of the designated disposal zones, the local government failed to properly evacuate the surrounding area. As a result, people could have been harmed. Instances like this are not acceptable, but the Chinese government is thankfully taking action. It was also reported that Chinese officials cleaned up the debris and other toxic material shortly after the booster crashed. For more about this specific mission click here.

SpaceX kicked off last week's launches with a Falcon 9 carrying twenty-two Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40, in Florida. The booster for this mission was B1078, on its eleventh flight, which successfully landed downrange on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'.

SpaceX launched another twenty Starlink satellites atop of Falcon 9, this time from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California. The booster for this mission was B1075, flying for the eleventh time, with it successfully landing on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You' downrange.

June 25th - Falcon Heavy with GOES-U

SpaceX's tenth Falcon Heavy mission lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, in Flordia, carrying the GOES-U satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit on behalf of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The boosters for this mission were B1087, making its first and only flight, B1086, flying for its first mission and landing back at Landing Zone 2, and B1072, also flying for its first mission and landing back at Landing Zone 1.

Yet another Falcon 9 carried twenty-three Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission was B1062 making its twenty-second flight, a new record in the Falcon 9 booster fleet, and landing downrange on the droneship 'Just Read the Instructions'.

June 29th - Falcon 9 with NROL-186

A Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4E carrying a batch of satellites to low Earth orbit on behalf of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The booster for this mission was B1081 flying for the eighth time and landing on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You' downrange.

June 29th - Long March 7A with ChinaSat-3A

China conducted its thirtieth launch of the year with a Long March 7A lifting off from Launch Complex 201 at the Wenchang Space Launch Site, in the southernmost province of Hainan. The payload atop of the Long March 7A was ChinaSat-3A, which was successfully placed into a geostationary transfer orbit.

Launches to look out for in July!

July once again looks to be another busy month for the global space sector. Listed below are all of the launches expected or very likely to happen next month, launches on the 1st of July may have already occurred due to when this newsletter is published.

July 1st - H3 with ALOS-4

The third H3 rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center is expected to carry the ALOS-4, Advanced Land Observing Satellite-4, satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit. ALOS-4 will observe the Earth's surface using a phased array L-band synthetic aperture radar.

July 2nd - Hyperbola-1 carrying a to-be-confirmed payload

iSpace is believed to be targeting the launch of its Hyperbola-1 rocket on July 2nd from Launch Area 95A at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. iSpace has not yet revealed any details about possible payloads.

July 2nd - Firefly Alpha for 'Noise of Summer'

Firefly Aerospace is expected to launch its Firefly Alpha rocket from Space Launch Complex 2W, in California, carrying eight CubeSats for NASA's ELaNa 43 mission. The rocket will place the eight satellites into a low Earth orbit.

SpaceX is expected to launch a Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 to low Earth orbit carrying another batch of Starlink satellites. The booster and drone ship for this mission is currently unknown.

July 5th - Long March 6A carrying a to-be-confirmed payload

A Long March 6A is believed to be targeting launch from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center carrying a currently unknown payload on July 5th.

July 8th - Falcon 9 with Türksat 6A

SpaceX is expected to launch Türksat 6A to a geostationary transfer orbit atop of Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster and drone ship for this mission are not yet known.

July 9th - Ariane 6 for its debut flight

Arianespace is finally expected to launch its Ariane 6 launch vehicle on its first flight. The launch is expected to occur from Ariane Launch Area 4 at the Guiana Space Center.

NET mid-July - Falcon 9 with Polaris Dawn

The Polaris Dawn mission is expected to occur in July with a Falcon 9 carrying it to low Earth orbit with four crew onboard. In addition to conducting medical research, the mission would test extravehicular spacesuits made by SpaceX and laser-based Starlink communications on Crew Dragon.

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