Weekly Dose of Space (10/12-16/12)

Weekly Dose of Space (10/12-16/12)


Welcome to Weekly Dose of Space! This week saw a handful of launches with some exciting news this week, including hop tests and a return to flight! We'll also look ahead to next week's launch schedule too.

SpaceX

SpaceX has had a busy week as always down at Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. At the start of the week on the 11th, workers were seen working on the orbital launch mount and ship quick disconnect arm at the launch site. The following day, the 12th, the booster quick disconnect was seen being tested.

Also on the 12th, teams were spotted disassembling Suborbital Pad A. Suborbital Pad A had previously supported the flights of SN5, SN6n SN8, SN10, and SN15.

On the 14th, Ship 28 was spotted rolling out from the production site. This is likely for a series of tests and static fires ahead of Starship-Super Heavy's third integrated flight test. The self-propelled modular transporter for Ship 28 was also sporting Christmas decorations during the rollout.

The following day on the 15th, a Starship tower segment was rolled from SpaceX's Roberts Road facility, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to a barge in the turn basin at the Kennedy Space Center. While not at Starbase currently, this and other tower segments are likely making their way to the launch site at Starbase to build another launch tower.

Christmas decorations have also been spotted on the orbital launch mount, ship quick disconnect arm, and staircase inside the launch tower.

Ship 28 during its rollout with Christmas decorations. ©Sean Doherty/NSF
Ship 28 during its rollout with Christmas decorations. ©Sean Doherty/NSF

Launches This Week

December 14th - Long March 2F/G with China's Reusable Space Vehicle

China launched its Reusable Space Vehicle into a believed low Earth orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The exact liftoff time is unknown due to the secret nature of the mission with its return date to Earth being unknown.

The Reusable Space Vehicle is a spaceplane similar to Boeing's X-37b with it previously having been to space twice.

There are no images of this launch due to its secret nature and the launch site being in a remote location.

December 15th - Electron for 'The Moon God Awakens'

Electron returned to flight carrying the QPS-SAR-5 synthetic-aperture radar satellite to low Earth orbit. This was the forty-second launch of Electron and the first launch following a failure to reach orbit on the forty-first launch.

Electron lifting off from its launchpad in the Mahia peninsula. ©Rocket Lab
Electron lifting off from its launchpad in the Mahia peninsula. ©Rocket Lab

December 15th - Long March 5 with Yaogan 41

A Long March 5 lifted off from Wenchang Space Launch Center carrying the Yaogan 41 spacecraft to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Yaogan is claimed to be a 'high orbit optical remote sensing satellite' operated by the Chinese government.

Long March 5 lifting off from Wenchang Space Launch Center with Yaogan 41.
Long March 5 lifting off from Wenchang Space Launch Center with Yaogan 41.

December 16th - Soyuz 2.1b with Arktika-M No.2

A Soyuz 2.1b carried an Arktika-M Earth observation satellite to an elliptical orbit. The Arktika-M satellite is designed to gather meteorological and hydrological data in the polar regions of Russia.

After the launch, Roscosmos provided an update via their telegram channel:

"Today, a snow-white Soyuz with a new hydrometeorological satellite was launched from Baikonur, now two Arktika-M satellites will operate in orbit: monitor the Earth's surface and the seas of the Arctic Ocean! By 2031, four more "Arktika" will be created and launched: this will halve the frequency of surveying the polar region, and increase the efficiency of detecting and monitoring dangerous natural phenomena and emergencies."

(This quote may not be one-hundred percent accurate due to being translated from Russian)

In Other Space News

iSpace completes another hop!

Hyperbola-2Y in powered flight during it's hop test.
Hyperbola-2Y in powered flight during it's hop test.

Chinese aerospace company iSpace recently completed another hop test of its Hyperbola-2Y vehicle on the 10th of December. This hop test flew to an altitude of 343.1 meters and moved 50 meters to its landing zone during its sixty-three-second flight.

This hop test comes a month after the previous which flew to an altitude of 178 meters before landing.

iSpace claims that the hop tests with Hyperbola-2Y will help them gather important flight data for the in-development Hyperbola-3 partially reusable rocket.

Amazon's Kuiper satellite completes in-space interconnect test

Amazon's logo for its Project Kuiper. ©Amazon
Amazon's logo for its Project Kuiper. ©Amazon

On the 14th of December, Amazon announced that KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 had successfully completed an inter-satellite link test. Amazon claimed the satellites were 1,000 kilometers apart during the test and maintained two-way speeds of 100 gigabits per second for roughly an hour.

Project Kuiper is Amazon's space-based internet constellation and competitor for SpaceX's Starlink space-based internet service.

Dream Chaser begins testing with NASA

Dream Chaser at NASA's Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio. ©NASA
Dream Chaser at NASA's Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio. ©NASA

Sierra Space's Dream Chaser spacecraft has recently begun testing at NASA's Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio. Dream Chaser's cargo module, called Shooting Star, was also delivered with the spacecraft.

At the Neil Armstrong Test Facility, Dream Chaser will be stacked atop of the Shooting Star cargo module for vibration testing to simulate a launch and re-entry like environment.

After the spacecraft completes vibration testing, Dream Chaser will be moved into the propulsion facility at the Neil Armstrong Test Facility for thermal vacuum testing. This test allows the spacecraft to be exposed to a 'mission-like' environment.

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

It is likely another tower segment will be loaded onto the barge currently at the Kennedy Space Center for transport to the launch site in Starbase, this assumes at the time of writing that the barge hasn't already left.

Currently, it looks less likely that the third integrated flight test of Starship-Super Heavy will launch this month.

December 17th - Hyperbola-1 with a yet-to-be-announced payload

Currently, a Hyperbola-1 is expected to launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The payload for the launch is yet to be announced.

A Falcon 9 is expected to carry another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. This launch is currently expected to take place from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

December 18th - New Shepard for NS-24

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket is expected to return to flight with the NS-24 mission. The mission will carry the same thirty-six science payloads and postcards from the Club For Future that flew on the failed NS-23 mission.

December 22nd - Falcon 9 with Ovzon-3

Another Falcon 9 is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral, in Florida. This launch is expected to occur currently from Space Launch Complex 40 and deliver the satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit.

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