Weekly Dose of Space (12/11-18/11)

Weekly Dose of Space (12/11-18/11)


Welcome to another Weekly Dose of Space! Your all-in-one newsletter that covers the biggest events in the past week, all of the launches this week, and what to expect next week. This week has been quite an exciting one, so let's dive in!

SpaceX

SpaceX had an amazing week! Successfully launching their Starship rocket at 7:02 am local time this Saturday. After getting the okay from the FAA and FWS on Wednesday, SpaceX set its sights on a Friday launch, which later was pushed back to Saturday, we will talk more about this historic launch, later in the newsletter!

In other news, SpaceX successfully launched two more Starlink missions on their Workhorse Falcon 9 Rocket.

Launches This Week

November 12th - Falcon 9 with O3b mPOWER 5 & 6

To kick off the week, SpaceX launched the O3b mPower 5 and 6 satellites into medium Earth orbit atop of its Falcon 9 rocket. The booster for this mission was B1076 making its ninth flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'.

The O3b mPower satellites are part of a constellation of eleven satellites for high-throughput communications, the satellites are built by Boeing and operated by SES.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. ©SpaceX

November 15th - Long March 2C/YZ-1S with Haiyang 3-01

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation launched a Long March 2C/YZ-1S from Launch Area 4 in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center carrying the Haiyang 3-01 satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit. The Haiyang 3-01 satellite is described as being a 'Next generation Chinese ocean color measurements satellite to study ocean ecology and effects on biological cycles and the climate'.

Long March 2C lifting off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. ©Zhang Jiuping
Long March 2C lifting off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. ©Zhang Jiuping

As is routine now, SpaceX launched twenty-three Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The booster for this mission was B1069 making its eleventh flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'Just Read The Instructions'.

Video of Falcon 9's first stage landing down range for the Starlink Group 6-28 mission via SpaceX on X (formerly Twitter)

November 18th - Starship IFT-2

SpaceX managed to successfully launch Starship-Super Heavy for its second integrated flight test from Starbase, Texas. The Super Heavy booster lit all thirty-three of its engines with all of them lasting up until hot staging of Ship 25 from Booster 9. After hot staging, the six Raptor engines, three sea-level engines, and three vacuum engines. The booster however did experience a rapid unscheduled disassembly while attempting to perform its boostback burn. Ship 25 also experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly for unknown reasons after flying for roughly six minutes after staging.

Despite not landing the booster in the Gulf of Mexico or the ship near Hawaii, SpaceX has considered the mission a success.

Starship-Super Heavy during first stage flight with Ship 25 and Booster 9. ©SpaceX
Starship-Super Heavy during first stage flight with Ship 25 and Booster 9. ©SpaceX

In Other Space News

Starship-Super Heavy during first stage flight with Ship 25 and Booster 9. ©SpaceX
Starship-Super Heavy during first stage flight with Ship 25 and Booster 9. ©SpaceX

Starship takes to the stars

November 18th saw Starship-Super Heavy take to the skies once again! The launch of the second integrated flight test of the Starship-Super Heavy launch vehicle comes almost six months after its maiden flight.

The second launch is largely considered a success by SpaceX and observers with the Super Heavy booster not losing any engines during first stage flight and only succumbing to a 'rapid unscheduled disassembly' during an attempted boostback burn. This is a large improvement from the first flight where the Super Heavy booster lost at least eight engines and the ship failed to separate.

The ship also managed to successfully hot stage from the booster and continued to fly for almost six minutes after, until also succumbing to a 'rapid unscheduled disassembly' for unknown reasons. Observers of the launch in Florida with high-powered telescopes and cameras have also reported seeing the front of the ship 'flying' on its own after the flight termination system was activated.

Astra's rocket 3 on its launch pad. ©Astra
Astra's rocket 3 on its launch pad. ©Astra

Astra granted an extension on loan

On the 17th of November via a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, Astra announced that two investor companies, JMCM Holdings LLC and SherpaVentures Fund II LLP, had agreed to extend the maturity date of a loan to the 21st of November.

This comes after Astra's founders Chris Kemp, who is currently Astra's chairman and chief executive officer, and Adam London, who is currently Astra's chief technology officer, offered a proposal to Astra's board of directors to buy all of the company's shares at $1.50 United States dollars each for a total of about $30 million dollars last week, on the 9th of November.

Astra also released its Q3 2023 financial results on the 16th of November and reported a loss of 29.7 million United States dollars and a revenue of two-hundred and fifty-six thousand United States dollars.

NASA portrait of Jim Free. ©NASA
NASA portrait of Jim Free. ©NASA

Jim Free to become Associate Administrator of NASA

On the 15th of November, NASA announced that Jim Free, current Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, will become Associate Administrator at the end of the year. This comes after Bob Cabana announced on the 13th of November that he will retire from the agency. Current NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the following about Jim Free;

“Pam, Bob and I strongly believe that his wealth of experience and expertise will bring exceptional guidance and perspective to our leadership team in his new role as associate administrator, enhancing our collective efforts toward achieving bold goals for the benefit of all humanity”

Replacing Jim Free in his current position will be Catherine Koerner who is Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development. Catherine Koerner was previously the program manager for the Orion spacecraft.

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

With Ship 25 and Booster 9 now gone from the launch site at Starbase, SpaceX will likely check the launch site for damage before resuming booster and ship static fire testing. Depending on the length of the post-flight investigation for IFT-2 it would not be outlandish to have IFT-3 happen within three months if all looks well.

SpaceX is expected to launch another batch of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4E from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The booster for this mission is expected to be B1063 making its twelfth flight and hopefully landing downrange on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 will launch Starlink Group 6-29 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The booster and drone ship for this mission is currently unknown.

November 23rd - Soyuz 2.1a with Bars-M No. 5

A Soyuz 2.1a is expected to launch from Plestsk Cosmodrome likely carrying a Bars-M satellite. Bars-M is believed to be a surveillance satellite with a ground resolution of roughly one meter.

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