Weekly Dose of Space (11/2-17/2)

Weekly Dose of Space (11/2-17/2)


Welcome back to Weekly Dose of Space! This week saw six launches worldwide and a wealth of Moon-related news! SpaceX has also not slowed down its progress on its Starship-Super Heavy vehicle. We'll also look ahead to the launch schedule worldwide you can expect next week.

SpaceX

SpaceX teams have continued to make progress down at Starbase, in Texas, with Ship 28 arriving at the launch site late last week. On the 11th, Ship 28 was 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.

Ship 28 atop of Booster 10 at Starbase in Texas. ©SpaceX
Ship 28 atop of Booster 10 at Starbase in Texas. ©SpaceX

Launches This Week

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.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 for USSF-124. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 for USSF-124. ©SpaceX

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.

Soyuz 2.1a lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome for Progress MS-26. ©NASA
Soyuz 2.1a lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome for Progress MS-26. ©NASA

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.

Booster B1060 landing at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral. ©SpaceX
Booster B1060 landing at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral. ©SpaceX

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.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E for Starlink Group 7-14. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E for Starlink Group 7-14. ©SpaceX

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.

H3 lifting off from Tanegashima Space Center. ©JAXA
H3 lifting off from Tanegashima Space Center. ©JAXA

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.

GLSV Mk II on the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center for INSAT-3DS. ©ISRO
GLSV Mk II on the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center for INSAT-3DS. ©ISRO

In Other Space News

Nova-C is 'in excellent health' heading towards the Moon

A photo from Nova-C during the IM-1 mission as it heads towards the Moon. ©Intuitive Machines
A photo from Nova-C during the IM-1 mission as it heads towards the Moon. ©Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander is reportedly 'in excellent health' as it heads towards the Moon to attempt its first landing. In a press release on the 15th, the company said the following:

"Following nominal launch vehicle separation, the spacecraft autonomously brought up all sensors and radios. Odysseus listened to the Inertial Measurement Unit to determine attitude rates and activated the Reaction Control System to nullify those attitude rates as designed.
Earlier today, Nova-C’s navigation system rejected star tracker data, but a patch has been sent to the spacecraft, and the star tracker updates have resumed nominal operations."

The lander also performed the first-ever firing of a liquid methane and liquid oxygen engine in space! The firing was part of a trajectory correction burn to place the spacecraft on the correct trajectory as it travels out to the Moon.

The lander is currently expected to touch down late on the 22nd of February.

Queqiao-2 moves closer to launch

A container containing components of the Long March 8 being loaded. ©China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology
A container containing components of the Long March 8 being loaded. ©China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

The Queqiao-2 spacecraft is moving closer to launch as components for the Long March 8 and support vessels are nearing the Wenchang Space Launch Site ahead of the launch on the 18th of March.

As reported by the Global Times, the Long March 8 will be supported by the Yuanwang series transport and control ships for the first time with Zhang Junning, Deputy Director of the Long March-8 rocket project office, saying:

"The mission marks the first use of China's satellite maritime monitoring and control fleet, the Yuanwang series transport and control ships, by the Long March-8 rocket, as well as the rocket's first execution of the Earth-Moon transfer orbit mission. With a tight launch window, every moment is crucial to ensuring the successful completion of the mission"

Queqiao-2 is a relay satellite to support the Chang'e-6, Chang'e-7, and Chang'e-8 missions. The satellite will utilize an elliptical 'frozen orbit' of 300 by 8600 kilometers around the Moon to allow consistent communications with spacecraft on the surface below.

Greece and Uruguay sign onto the Artemis Accords

Giorgos Gerapetritis, Greek foreign minister, signs the Artemis Accords (left), Uruguayan Ambassador to the United States Andrés Augusto Durán Hareau (right) after signing the Artemis Accords. ©NASA/U.S. State Department/Chuck Kennedy/Keegan Barber
Giorgos Gerapetritis, Greek foreign minister, signs the Artemis Accords (left), Uruguayan Ambassador to the United States Andrés Augusto Durán Hareau (right) after signing the Artemis Accords. ©NASA/U.S. State Department/Chuck Kennedy/Keegan Barber

Late last week on the 9th of February, Greece signed onto the United States led Artemis Accords. After the signing, NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson said:

“Congratulations to Greece on becoming the 35th country to join the Artemis Accords family,” – “The U.S. and Greece are long-time partners and friends, and we are excited to expand this partnership in the cosmos. Together, we are shaping the future of cooperation in space for the Artemis Generation.”

The Foreign Minister of Greece, Giorgos Gerapetritis, also said:

“As humanity embarks on a great adventure, returning to the Moon and preparing for traveling beyond the Moon, the Artemis Accords serve as a beacon of collaboration and cooperation among nations, paving the way for a sustainable and peaceful exploration of space”

Almost a week later on the 15th, Uruguay also signed onto the Artemis Accords with Omar Paganini, Foreign Minister of Uruguay said the following after the signing:

“We are honored to have the opportunity to introduce space cooperation as a new chapter in the robust bilateral agenda between Uruguay and the U.S.,” – “We are sure that this signing ceremony is not an end in itself, but the beginning of a new bilateral track based on knowledge-intensive activities and new opportunities for our people.”

Bill Nelson also commented on Uruguay's signing saying:

“NASA welcomes Uruguay as the newest member of the Artemis Accords family,” – “The United States and Uruguay share a commitment to democracy and peace, and now, we expand these principles in the cosmos to commit to the safe and transparent exploration of space.”

The Artemis Accords currently consists of the following countries: Angola, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Uruguay.

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

SpaceX is believed to be confident about a February launch for Starship-Super Heavy, likely towards the end of the month, but it's believed the launch may now occur in March. It's believed Ship 28 and Super Heavy Booster 10 have completed almost all of their testing campaigns, both are expected to do a 'wet dress rehearsal' soon. Currently, SpaceX is still waiting on regulatory approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

February 18th - Electron for 'On Closer Inspection'

Rocket Lab is expected to launch an Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1B in the Māhia Peninsula, in New Zealand. The rocket is believed to be carrying the ADRAS-J on behalf of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

February 20th - Falcon 9 with HTS-113BT

A Falcon 9 is expected to launch from Space Launch Complex 40 carrying the HTS-113BT telecommunications satellites for PT Telkom Satelit Indonesia.

Another Falcon 9 is expected to launch carrying yet another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. The mission is believed to occur from Space Launch Complex 4E.

February 23rd - Long March 5 with a to-be-announced payload

A Long March 5 is expected to launch no earlier than 10:00 pm on the 23rd of February. The payload is currently unknown but the last time this configuration, the rocket with the larger fairing, was used it launched the Yaogan 41 optical remote-sensing satellite.

Even more Starlink satellites are expected to launch next week atop of a Falcon 9. This mission is believed to occur from Space Launch Complex 40.

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