Monthly Dose of Space - May 2024

Monthly Dose of Space - May 2024


Welcome to our eighth 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. May has once again been an incredibly busy month for 2024, so let's jump into it!

SpaceX

Work at Starbase this month started on the 2nd of May, Booster 13 was rolled from the Massey's test site to the production site, the booster has completed cryo tests of both tanks at Massey's. Also on the 2nd, teams were seen partially demolishing the wall that houses the 'Gateway to Mars' sign, it's unknown if the entire wall will be demolished to build a second launch pad. The ship quick disconnect arm was also seen performing a retraction test on the same day.

A few days later on the 7th the Ship static fire stand was moved from the Massey's test site to the production site. A few hours later Ship 30 performed a partial fuel load alongside testing of the launch site's fuelling systems. Not long after that, Ship 26 was lifted onto the Ship static fire stand in the production site.

In the early hours of the 8th, Ship 26 was taken from the production site to the Massey's test site atop of the Ship static fire stand. The 8th also saw Ship 30 fire up all six of its engines on suborbital Pad B for a static fire test ahead of the fifth flight of Starship-Super Heavy, the fourth flight is still yet to happen.

On the 10th, Ship 30 was lifted off of suborbital Pad B ahead of being transported back to the production site. A few hours later Ship 30 was rolled from the launch site back to the production site. That evening, Booster 11 was rolled out from the production site to the launch site.

Early in the morning of the 11th, Ship 31 also left the production site and headed to the Massey's test site. The 11th also saw Booster 11 being lifted onto the orbital launch mount for testing. Ship 29 was also moved to the launch site at the very end of the week, where it is was waiting to be stacked atop of Booster 11. A day later on the 12th, Ship 31 was conducting tests at the Massey's test site where an anomaly occurred, it's unknown what it was but the Ship was emptied of fuels shortly after with it taking a few hours.

On the 14th, Ship 29 was moved away from the orbital launch mount where teams were spotted inspecting the vehicle, it is unknown what they were looking for. Late on the 14th, Ship 31 was moved back to the production site from the Massey's test site, likely for repairs and a thorough investigation.

In the early hours of the 15th, Ship 29 was moved back next to the orbital launch mount and into the 'chopsticks'. Ship 29 was later lifted onto Booster 11 shortly after. The same day, flight termination system explosives were delivered to Starbase where they were moved into the designated, and isolated, storage. The 16th saw Booster 11 and Ship 29 conduct a tanking test ahead of a full wet dress rehearsal.

Four days later on the 20th, Ship 29 and Booster 11 conducted a wet dress rehearsal of the launch countdown. This test fully loads both vehicles with propellant and heads through the launch countdown to T- ten seconds.

The next day, Ship 29 was destacked from Booster 11 and placed next to the orbital launch mount, likely for final preparation work ahead of flight. On the 22nd, workers were seen testing the thermal protection tiles of Ship 29, likely to ensure as few as possible are liberated during flight. This tile work continued into the morning of the 24th.

A couple of days later on the 26th, Ship 29 was once again stacked atop of Booster 11 using the 'chopsticks' of the launch tower. Not long after the stacking, the Ship quick disconnect arm was seen performing a disconnect test, this mimics what part of the arm will go through during flight.

On the 27th, the deluge system under the orbital launch mount, which protects the launch pad from the energy of thirty-three Raptor engines, was seen performing a deluge test at a low power setting. The next day on the 28th, Ship 29 and Booster 11 once again went through a wet dress rehearsal, this time fully fuelling the liquid oxygen and liquid methane tanks in both vehicles. Once filled with propellant, they remained full for almost thirty minutes, likely simulation a hold in the countdown. After both vehicles had been unloaded of propellant, a full power test of the deluge system was performed.

The 29th saw Ship 29 being destacked from Booster 11 once again, however this destack allowed SpaceX teams to install flight termination system explosives on both vehicles on the 30th. At the time of writing on the 31st, Ship 29 has been moved back into the 'chopsticks' of the launch tower ahead of what is hopefully the final time it will be stacked atop of Booster 11.

News of the Month

May saw news of new signatories for deep space exploration agreements and of new methane engines firing up!

Relativity completes full-duration Aeon R firing!

Aeon R's 180-second firing via Relativity Space on X.

Relativity Space completed a full-duration firing of its Aeon R engine running at maximum thrust for 180 seconds! The Aeon R engine can produce 126 tons of thrust while burning liquid methane and liquid oxygen.

According to Relativity Space, this test demonstrated the capability of the Aeon R, its production processes, and the skills of the engineering team ahead of the production of flight-quality engines. Fourteen Aeon R engines will be needed for the debut flight of Terran R in 2026, with thirteen on the first-stage and one on the second-stage.

CASC conducts first firing from new test stand!

A liquid methane and liquid oxygen engine firing at the Laiyuan Test Center.
A liquid methane and liquid oxygen engine firing at the Laiyuan Test Center.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, commonly shortened to CASC, has conducted the first firing from a new test stand located near Laiyuan, in the province of Hebei located in the north of China. The new test stand is part of the Laiyuan Test Center of the 101st Institute of the Sixth Academy of Aerospace Science and Technology Group and will test liquid propellant rocket engines that can produce up to 500 tons of thrust.

The new test stand can also support the testing of two engines in close proximity to one another with them burning either liquid methane and liquid oxygen or liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. CASC has said that the test stand integrates remote command and real-time fault diagnostic systems.

CASC did not say what engine performed the first firing from the stand on the 30th, but it is believed to have been the in-development YF-209 engine that burns liquid methane and liquid oxygen to produce 80 tons of thrust.

Peru becomes 41st Artemis Accords Signatory

Ambassador of Peru to the United States Alfredo Ferrero Diez Canseco (left), Peruvian Foreign Minister Javier González-Olaechea (center left), NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (center right), and United States Department of State Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Jennifer R. Littlejohn (right) during the Artemis Accords signing ceremony. ©NASA/Keegan Barber
Ambassador of Peru to the United States Alfredo Ferrero Diez Canseco (left), Peruvian Foreign Minister Javier González-Olaechea (center left), NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (center right), and United States Department of State Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Jennifer R. Littlejohn (right) during the Artemis Accords signing ceremony. ©NASA/Keegan Barber

Peru has become the forty-first country to sign onto the U.S. led Artemis Accords on May 30th. The signing of the Artemis Accords by Peru took place at NASA Headquarters, in Washington D.C., and was overseen by Ambassador of Peru to the United States Alfredo Ferrero Diez Canseco, Peruvian Foreign Minister Javier González-Olaechea, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, and United States Department of State Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Jennifer R. Littlejohn.

Javier González-Olaechea, Peruvian Foreign Minister, commented on the signing saying:

“Peru, by joining the Artemis Accords, seeks not only to express a common vision with the other member countries but also to establish cooperation mechanisms with these countries, especially with the United States, to participate in activities of exploration and sustainable use of resources found in space, as well as to promote aerospace scientific development in our country”

Peru was also the sixth country in South America to sign onto the Artemis Accords.

Slovakia becomes 42nd country to sign the Artemis Accords

Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the United States Radovan Javorcik (left), Slovak Republic Minister of Education, Research, Development, and Youth Tomáš Drucker (center left), NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (center right), and United States Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Sonata Coulter (right) during the Artemis Accords signing ceremony. ©NASA/Keegan Barber
Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the United States Radovan Javorcik (left), Slovak Republic Minister of Education, Research, Development, and Youth Tomáš Drucker (center left), NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (center right), and United States Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Sonata Coulter (right) during the Artemis Accords signing ceremony. ©NASA/Keegan Barber

Slovakia is the latest country to sign onto the Artemis Accords, having signed on on May 30th not long after Peru. The signing also took place at NASA headquarters with it being overseen by Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the United States Radovan Javorcik, Slovak Republic Minister of Education, Research, Development, and Youth Tomáš Drucker, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, and United States Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Sonata Coulter.

Tomáš Drucker, Slovak Republic Minister of Education, Research, Development, and Youth, said the following after signing the Artemis Accords:

“Slovakia perceives the Artemis Accords as a great opportunity for this generation to positively define guidelines and principles for the responsible and sustainable exploration and use of outer space”

LandSpace and Hongqing Technology file for a mega constellation

LandSpace's facility at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center after the arrival of the second Zhuque-2 rocket. ©LandSpace
LandSpace's facility at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center after the arrival of the second Zhuque-2 rocket. ©LandSpace

LandSpace and Hongqing Technology have filed for a ten-thousand spacecraft low Earth orbit mega constellation with the International Telecommunication Union in late May. The constellation is believed to be called Honghu-3 and will consist of 10,000 satellites across one-hundred and sixty orbital planes.

The filing is the third plan for a mega constellation from China after GuoWang and G60, with a total of 32,000 satellites planned across all three. Also according to the filing, the operator of the constellation will be a new company called Shanghai LandSpace Hongqing Technology Co LTD.

LandSpace and Hongqing Technology have not said much publically since the filing as it serves as a notification to member states of the International Telecommunication Union for the intention to launch. The filing also allows members to review the proposed network and assess potential interference with existing or planned satellites in similar orbits.

Launches of the Month

This month saw twenty-seven launches past the Kármán line worldwide, if you want to know what each launch was we have them all listed below!

May 2nd - Falcon 9 with WorldView Legion 1 & 2

SpaceX kicked off May's when it launched two WorldView Legion for Maxar into sun-synchronus orbit from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California, atop of Falcon 9. The booster for this mission was B1061 making its twentieth flight and landing back at Landing Zone 4 at the Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Following it a day later, twenty-three Starlink satellites were sent into low Earth orbit atop of Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission was B1067 making its nineteenth flight and landed downrange on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'.

May 3rd - Long March 5 with Chang'e 6

China kicked off its fourth lunar landing mission with the Chang'e 6 lunar far-side sample return mission from LC-101 at the Wenchang Space Launch Site, located in the province of Hainan. The mission is part of the country's fourth phase of its lunar exploration program and the first mission aiming to retrieve samples from the far-side of the Moon. For more about the launch, mission, and spacecraft click here.

SpaceX once again launched a Falcon 9 carrying twenty-three Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40, in Florida. The booster for this mission was B1069 making its fifteenth flight and successfully landing downrange on the drone ship 'Just Read The Instructions'.

May 7th - Long March 6C on its debut flight

The Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology debuted its new Long March 6C launch vehicle from Launch Complex 9A at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center carrying four payloads into a sun-synchronus orbit. For more on the Long March 6C and its first launch click here.

SpaceX launched another twenty-three Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit at of Falcon 9 from Florida, this time from Launch Complex 39A. The booster for this mission was B1083 making its third flight and successfully landing on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas' downrange.

May 9th - Long March 3B/E with Smart SkyNet 1A & 1B

The first of two Long March 3B/E's this month lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center to medium Earth orbit. The two Smart SkyNet satellites will test communications technologies in space before launching more satellites later in the year. For more on the launch and payloads click here.

Another Falcon 9 launched not long after the last sending twenty Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California. The booster for this mission was B1082 making its fourth flight and successfully landing downrange on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

May 11th - Long March 4C with Shiyan-23

The Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology launched a second rocket during may with a Long March 4C lifting off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center to a sun-synchronus orbit. The payload was Shiyan-23 which is believed to be operated by the Chinese military.

SpaceX launched yet another Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 carrying twenty-three Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. The booster for this mission was B1073 making its fifteenth flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas' successfully.

SpaceX launched, you guessed it, another Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 4E carrying twenty Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. The booster for this mission was B1063 making its eighteenth flight and successfully landing on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You' downrange.

May 16th - Soyuz 2.1b with Kosmos 2576

Russia launched a Soyuz 2.1b from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome during May carrying a military spacecraft. The Soyuz 2.1b with a Fregat-M upper-stage placed the Kosmos 2576 satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit.

SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 carrying wenty-three Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. The booster for this mission was B1062 making its 21st flight, a new record for a booster, and successfully landing downrange on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas'.

May 19th - New Shepard with NS-25

Blue Origin returned New Shepard to crewed flights on the 19th of May when the NS-25 mission lifted off in West Texas carrying the six-person crew above the Kármán line. Onboard were Ed Dwight, Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth Hess, Carol Schaller, and Gopi Thotakura.

May 20th - Long March 2D with Beijing 3C

The Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology launched a third rocket during May with a Long March 2D carrying four Beijing 3C Earth observation satellites into a sun-synchronus orbit from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The four Beijing 3C satellites will provide data for map surveying, land surveying, forestry surveying, urban planning, as well as disaster monitoring and relief. This launched also tested a new grid fin design during the descent of the first-stage.

May 21st -Kuaizhou-11 with four satellites

ExPace launched a Kuaizhou-11 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center carrying four satellites into a sun-synchronus orbit. The four satellites were Wuhan-1, Chutian 001, Tianyan 22, and Lingque-3 01. Notably, Wuhan-1 is a 'ultra-low-orbit' technology demonstrator spacecraft.

May 22nd - Falcon 9 with NROL-146

SpaceX launched the NROL-146 mission for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from Space Launch Complex 4E carrying what is believed to be the first batch of a spy satellite constellation in low Earth orbit. The booster for this mission was B1071, on its sixteenth flight, with it landing downrange on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

A day after the last, another Falcon 9 launched carrying twenty-three Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission was B1080, making its eighth flight, and landing on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas' downrange.

Falcon 9 once again launched another twenty-three Starlinks to low Earth orbit from Launch Complex 39A. The booster for this mission was B0177, on its thirteenth flight, with it landing downrange on the drone ship 'Just Read the Instructions'.

May 25th - Electron for 'Ready, Aim, PREFIRE'

Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket to polar orbit from Launch Complex 1B carrying the first of two PREFIRE, Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment, satellites for NASA. The PREFIRE satellites will collect data on emissions in far infrared wavelength near the north and south poles.

May 27th - Chŏllima-1 with Malligyong-1-1

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea attempted what is believed to have been a fourth launch of its Chŏllima-1 launch vehicle from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, which is on the Yellow Sea, headed to a sun-synchronus orbit. A few minutes into flight the flight ended when it disintegrated mid-air, destroying the rocket. The payload onboard is believed to have been another military reconnaissance satellite.

SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 carrying yet more Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40, twenty-three satellites were onboard for this mission. The booster for this mission was B1078 making its tenth flight and landing successfully on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas' downrange.

May 28th - Falcon 9 with EarthCARE

The European Space Agency's EarthCARE, Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer, mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4E atop of a Falcon 9 with it being successfully delivered to a sun-synchronus orbit. The booster for this mission was B1081 making its seventh flight and successfully landing back at Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

May 29th - Ceres-1S with Tianqi No. 25-28

Galactic Energy kicked off its launches for the year with a Ceres-1S launching from the Dong Fang Hang Tian Gang sea launch vessel approximately three miles off of the coast of the city of Rizhao in the Yellow Sea. The payloads atop of the rocket were four Tianqi satellites for a commercial 'internet of things' and communications network of spacecraft in low Earth orbit. 

May 30th - Soyuz 2.1a with Progress MS-27

Roscosmos launched a Progress resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station atop of a Soyuz 2.1a from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Aboard the Progress MS-27 spacecraft are approximately 2,500 kilograms of supplies for the crew and various new experiments.

May 30th - Long March 3B/E with Paksat MM1R

China launched its second Long March 3B/E of the month carrying Paksat MM1R to a geosynchronous transfer orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Paksat-MM1R is claimed as being able to provide television, radio, and regional communications in Pakistan. For more about this launch and the spacecraft click here.

May 31st - Ceres-1 with five satellites

A second Ceres-1 launched during May, and a day and a half after the last, this time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Aboard the rocket were Jiguang-01, Jiguang-02, Yunyao-1 14, Yunyao-1 25, and Yunyao-1 26. All five satellites are believed to be healthy in an approximately 535-kilometer sun-synchronus orbit. 

Launches to look out for in June!

June looks to be another busy month with a few notable missions. Listed below are all of the launches expected or very likely to happen next month, launches on the 1st of June may have already occurred due to when this newsletter is published.

SpaceX is hoping to launch another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit at the start of June from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission is believed to be B1076, on its fourteenth flight, with a landing attempt on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'.

June 1st - Electron for 'PREFIRE And Ice'

Rocket Lab is expected to carry 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 1st - Atlas V with Starliner Crewed Flight Test

United Launch Alliance is expected to launch Boeing's Starliner spacecraft into low Earth orbit carrying astronauts Barry Wilmore and Suni Williams onboard. The mission is the first crewed test flight of the Starliner spacecraft, and its second trip to the space station.

June 5th - Starship-Super Heavy flight four

SpaceX is believed to be targeting no earlier than June 5th for the fourth flight test of Starship-Super Heavy. The two vehicles SpaceX is expected to fly for the test are Ship 29 and Booster 11, both vehicles have completed static fire tests and a wet dress rehearsal ahead of flight. Like the previous flight tests, the only obstacle left ahead of launch is regulatory approval via a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. For more details on the next flight test click here.

Another Starlink batch is expected to head to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 atop of a Falcon 9. The booster and drone ship for this mission are currently unknown.

Yet another batch of Starlink satellites are expected to be launched atop of Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 4E. The booster and drone ship for this mission are also currently unknown.

June 25th - Falcon Heavy with GOES-U

SpaceX is believed to be planning to launch a Falcon Heavy from Launch Complex 39A carrying the GOES-U geostationary weather satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit. The boosters for this mission are thought to be B1072, B1086, and B1087. B1087 will be expended with no recovery attempt, B1072 and B1086 however will attempt a return to launch site landing.

June 30th - 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.

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