Monthly Dose of Space - October 2023

Monthly Dose of Space - October 2023


Welcome to our very first Monthly Dose of Space! In this monthly newsletter, we bring you all of the major news from the past month! October has had some pretty interesting moments, so let's dive into it!

SpaceX

SpaceX, as always had another solid month! We'll cover all of their launches in a little bit, but first, let's go over some of the work they've done this month!

Work has continued at Starbase, as we potentially near a second integrated flight test, IFT-2, in the early parts of November. A full stack Wet Dress Rehearsal, WDR, commenced on the 25th! This test was nominal and SpaceX now says they are "ready for launch just awaiting regulatory approval!"

While it can be quite annoying to anxiously wait for the next Starship launch, we do want to remind you that these regulatory bodies are very important and hopefully, after a not-so-explosive IFT-2, we won't have these long waits anymore!

News of the Month

October was ripe full of news, from Stoke expanding its funding, to more leaks on the ISS, it's been quite a hectic month!

Stoke Space receives extra funding

A render of Stoke Space's Nova rocket. ©Stoke Space
A render of Stoke Space's Nova rocket. ©Stoke Space

Earlier in the month, Stoke Space announced it had received a one-hundred million United States dollar investment in 'Series B' funding which brings the company's total funding to one-hundred and seventy-five million United States dollars. The announcement of extra funding came a little over three weeks after Stoke Space successfully performed a hop with its 'Hopper 2' technology demonstrator.

Stoke Space is likely to be using its one-hundred and seventy-five million dollars of funding to work on its fully reusable launch vehicle called Nova. Nova is a fully reusable medium-lift launch vehicle currently in development with the company claiming it can launch up to five tons to low Earth orbit. Stoke Space also hopes to utilize orbital refueling to allow the delivery of larger payloads further out than one launch of Nova could do.

NASA's Psyche leaves Earth

Falcon Heavy lifting off with Psyche in the background with Starlink Group 6-22 in the foreground. ©SpaceX
Falcon Heavy lifting off with Psyche in the background with Starlink Group 6-22 in the foreground. ©SpaceX

NASA had its Psyche spacecraft launch atop of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket from LC-39A on the 13th of October. Falcon Heavy placed the spacecraft on an orbit around the Sun that will have it reach asteroid 16 Psyche in five years and ten months from now. The three boosters for this mission were; B1079 making its first and only flight, B1064 making its fourth flight and landing back at Landing Zone 1, and B0165 making its fourth flight too and landing at Landing Zone 2.

Psyche is currently still in the commissioning phase of the mission and is currently 28.6 light seconds from Earth.

Psyche is a mission by NASA to investigate the asteroid 16 Psyche which is believed to be an early planet's core made of mostly iron and nickel out between Mars and Jupiter.

Crew rotation aboard the Chinese space station

Shenzhou 17 launching (left) and Shenzhou 16 returning to Earth (right). ©CNSA/CMSA
Shenzhou 17 launching (left) and Shenzhou 16 returning to Earth (right). ©CNSA/CMSA

This month saw a crew rotation aboard China's Tiangong space station with the arrival of the Shenzhou 17 crew on the 26th of October. After spending five days with the Shenzhou 17 crew the Shenzhou 16 crew left the space station and returned to Earth on the 31st of October.

The crew of Shenzhou 16 is; Commander Jing Haipeng, Flight Engineer Zhe Yangzhu, and Payload Specialist Gui Haichao. The crew spent one-hundred and fifty-four days in space.

The crew of Shenzhou 17 is; Commander Tang Hongbo, Operator Tang Shengjie, and System Operator Jiang Xinlin. The crew is currently expected to be aboard the Tiangong space station until May 2024.

India's Gaganyaan in-flight abort test

The capsule for Gaganyaan TV-D1 being recovered by recovery teams. ©ISRO
The capsule for Gaganyaan TV-D1 being recovered by recovery teams. ©ISRO

On the 21st of October, India performed an in-flight abort test of its Gaganyaan capsule ahead of a crewed flight in 2025. The mission had the capsule perform an abort 11.7 kilometers up at 889 miles per hour where it separated from the booster. Gaganyaan's launch escape system carried the capsule up to 17 kilometers where it was released at a speed of 370 miles per hour. After deploying its drogue chutes and then main parachutes the capsule splashed down roughly 10 kilometers from its launch site, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

The Indian Space Research Organisation called the mission a success.

Leak on the International Space Station and Russian EVA

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko (red stripes) and Nikolai Chub (blue stripes) during their spacewalk. ©NASA
Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko (red stripes) and Nikolai Chub (blue stripes) during their spacewalk. ©NASA

On the 11th of October, the backup radiator on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module started to leak coolant into space. The leak delayed two spacewalks for the United States segment of the International Space Station and changed plans for a spacewalk from the Russian segment.

On the 25th of October, two cosmonauts, Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub, performed a spacewalk from the Russian segment of the International Space Station spending almost eight hours outside. During their spacewalk, the cosmonauts documented the source of the leak on Nauka's backup radiator and isolated the cooling system. However, a bubble of coolant formed on the radiator at the source of the leak requiring the crew to wipe down their suits before continuing. The two cosmonauts also released a nanosatellite to test a solar sail but the sail failed to deploy on the satellite.

United Launch Alliance targets December with Vulcan

Vulcan at Space Launch Complex 41 during testing. ©ULA
Vulcan at Space Launch Complex 41 during testing. ©ULA

United Launch Alliance announced on the 24th of October that they are targeting December 24th for the maiden flight of its Vulcan rocket. The company seeks to replace its Atlas V and Delta IV rockets with Vulcan.

United Launch Alliance claims Vulcan could launch up to 27,200 kilograms to low Earth orbit, 14,500 kilograms to a geosynchronous transfer orbit, or 6,500 kilograms directly to geostationary orbit. Vulcan has four possible configurations with a fifth 'Upgrade' configuration being worked on.

NASA's Lucy flies by asteroid Dinkinesh

Lucy being prepared for launch in September 2021. ©NASA
Lucy being prepared for launch in September 2021. ©NASA

Within hours of this newsletter's publication Lucy will have flown by asteroid 152830 Dinkinesh. Lucy will fly by 152830 Dinkinesh, which is roughly seven-hundred meters across, at a distance of approximately four-hundred and twenty-five kilometers but will start monitoring the asteroid from sixteen-thousand kilometers away. The flyby will serve as a test of the spacecraft's terminal tracking system for the first time during its mission.

Lucy is a NASA Discovery program mission that was launched on the 16th of October 2021 atop of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V in its 401 configuration. NASA plans to have Lucy visit seven asteroids over the course of 12 years and heading out as far as the orbit of Jupiter.

FAA completes its safety review of Starship ahead of IFT-2

Ship 25 atop of Booster 9 during a wet dress rehearsal at Starbase, Texas. ©SpaceX
Ship 25 atop of Booster 9 during a wet dress rehearsal at Starbase, Texas. ©SpaceX

On October 31st, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it had completed its safety review of the Starship-Super Heavy vehicle ahead of IFT-2. The Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are still working on an updated environmental review and biological assessment.

There are rumors however of IFT-2 taking place in early November.

Launches of the Month

This month saw nineteen launches this month, with nine alone from SpaceX carrying one-hundred and seventy-eight satellites into space! China's Long March series of rockets made up another four of the launches. With the rest of the global launches making up the other six. If you are keen to know what each launch was for we have all of them listed below!

October 5th - Long March 2D with Yaogan 39 Group 03

China kicked off this month's launches with the launch of a Yaogan remote-sensing satellite atop of a Long March 2D rocket. This was the forty-sixth launch from China this year and the four hundred and ninetieth launch for the Long March series of Rockets.

SpaceX predictably launched a Starlink mission atop of the reliable Falcon 9 rocket. This launch carried twenty-two satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The booster for this mission was B1076 making its eighth launch and landing successfully on the drone ship 'Just Read The Instructions'.

October 6th - SpaceShipTwo for Galactic 04

Virgin Galactic launched another commercial suborbital spaceflight with three paying customers on board of VSS Unity. The passengers of Galactic 04 were; Ron Rosano from the USA, Trevor Beattie from the UK, and Namira Salim from Pakistan. Namira Salim is the first person from Pakistan to go to space. This was also the fifth flight for Virgin Galactic in five months.

October 6th - Atlas V 501 with Project Kuiper Protoflight

United Launch Alliance launched its second Atlas V of the year for Amazon's Project Kuiper Protoflight. The launch had two Project Kuiper prototype satellites placed into a five-hundred-kilometer orbit of Earth. Rather confusingly the launch was only streamed up until the separation of the Centaur upper stage from the booster, this is either due to a request from Amazon or another payload from the United States military was onboard.

October 7th - Miura 1 for SN1 Test Flight

PLD a Spanish Aerospace startup located in Elche, Spain, had their first successful suborbital rocket launch on Saturday! Their Miura 1 rocket didn't reach its target altitude, however there was plenty to celebrate for. Miura 1 planned to reach an altitude of 80 kilometers (5o miles) however their first rocket only reached an apogee of 46 kilometers (28.6 miles). Despite this, the PLD team was nothing but ecstatic and declared their first launch as a success! Onboard the test flight was a microgravity experiment supplied by the German Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity. To mark the special moment, photos of the PLD team were also on board!

October 9th - Vega with THEOS-2, TRITON, and CubeSats

The launch, which was originally scheduled for the 7th of October, took off to sun-synchronous orbit from Ariane Launch Area 1 in Kourou, French Guiana. The two major payloads for the launch were; the THEOS-2 optical observation satellite, and the FORMOSAT-7R TRITON weather satellite. The ten CubeSats riding along were; PRETTY, ESTCUBE-2, MACSAT, PVCC, N3SS, ANSER LEADER/ANSER FOLLOWER 1/ANSER FOLLOWER 2, CSC 1 and CSC 2 (Project-2).

As to be expected now, SpaceX launched twenty-one more Starlink satellites for its space-based internet satellite service. This Starlink launch was from SLC-4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base, in California, atop of Booster B1063 making its fourteenth launch and landing downrange on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

October 13th - Falcon Heavy with Psyche

NASA had its Psyche spacecraft launch atop of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket from LC-39A to an orbit around the Sun that will have it reach asteroid 16 Psyche in five years and ten months from now. The three boosters for this mission were; B1079 making its first and only flight, B1064 making its fourth flight and landing back at Landing Zone 1, and B0165 making its fourth flight too and landing at Landing Zone 2.

Psyche is a mission by NASA to investigate the asteroid 16 Psyche which is believed to be an early planet's core made of mostly iron and nickel out between Mars and Jupiter.

In a rare daylight Starlink launch SpaceX sent twenty-two more Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit this week. This time from SLC-40 in Cape Canaveral, in Florida, atop of Booster B1067 for its thirteenth launch and landing downrange on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas'.

October 15th - Long March 2D with Yunhai-1-04

A Long March 2D lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center carrying the Yunhai-1-04 satellite. The satellite was delivered to sun-synchronous orbit where it will detect environmental elements in the atmosphere and ocean as well as for disaster prevention and reduction.

As to be expected, SpaceX launched twenty-two Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida to build out its space-based internet service. The booster for this mission was B1062 making its sixteenth flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'Just Read The Instructions'.

October 21st - Gaganyaan Abort Test

India took the next major step in its human spaceflight program on the 21st of October with the launch of Gaganyaan TV-D1. The mission had the capsule perform an abort 11.7 kilometers up at 889 miles per hour where it separated from the booster. Gaganyaan's launch escape system carried the capsule up to 17 kilometers where it was released at a speed of 370 miles per hour. After deploying its drogue chutes and then main parachutes the capsule splashed down roughly 10 kilometers from its launch site, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

SpaceX launched twenty-one more Starlink to end out the week with this launch coming from Space Launch Complex 4E in California. The booster for this flight was B1061 making its sixteenth flight and landing on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You' downrange.

SpaceX launched another Starlink mission onboard the Falcon 9. The booster for this mission was B1080, and it was the boosters fourth reflight. Launched from SLC-40, 23 V2-mini satellites were sent to LEO. After landing on A Short Fall of Gravitas, this mission marked the 164th consecutive successful Falcon recovery.

October 23rd - Long March 2D with Yaogan 39 Group 04

A Long March 2D lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The Long March 2D carried the Yaogan 39 Group 04 payloads, which are believed to be reconnaissance satellites, into low Earth orbit.

October 26th - Long March 2F with Shenzhou 17

China launched its sixth crew to its Tiangong space station with the launch of the Shenzhou 17 mission. The Long March 2F rocket lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 03:14 UTC carrying the Shenzhou 17 spacecraft and its crew of three to the Tiangong space station in low Earth orbit. The Shenzhou 17 spacecraft docked at the forward port of the Tianhe module at 09:46 and was greeted by the Shenzhou 16 crew after opening the hatch at 11:34.

The Commander of the Shenzhou 17 crew is Tang Hongbo who is making his second spaceflight. The Operator of the Shenzhou 17 crew is Tang Shengjie who is making his first spaceflight. The System Operator of the Shenzhou 17 crew is Jiang Xinlin who is making his first spaceflight.

October 27th - Soyuz 2.1b with Kosmos 2570 (Lotos-S1 #8)

Russia launched a Soyuz 2.1b carrying the Kosmos 2570 (Lotos-S1 #8) payload into low Earth orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The payload is believed to be part of the Liana constellation for military electronic intelligence.

Keeping up with its insane launch cadence, a SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California carrying twenty-two more Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. The booster for this mission was B1075 making its seventh flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

As to be expected by now was a SpaceX Falcon 9 lofting twenty-three more Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit, this time from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral Florida. The booster for this mission was B1077 making its eighth flight and landing on the drone ship 'Just Read The Instructions' downrange.

October 31st - Long March 6A with Tianhui 5

Rounding out the launches for this month was a Long March 6A lifting off from Launch Complex 9A at Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The Long March 6A carried the Tianhui 5 satellite to a sun-synchronous orbit. The Tianhu 5 spacecraft is officially described as being for 'cartographic surveying purposes'.

Conclusion

This month has been quite packed, from over a dozen launches, mission updates, scares on the ISS, work on Starship, and more!

But this month also marks another special event, it’s the first month that Cosmic Nxws, has been around!

We are looking forward to an even better next month, and we are glad to have you on this journey! We have a lot in store for Cosmic Nxws and we cannot wait to share them all with you!

Thank you for reading our first ever monthly dose of space!

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