Weekly Dose of Space (14/1-20/1)

Weekly Dose of Space (14/1-20/1)


Welcome to Weekly Dose of Space, your all-inclusive one-stop place, for all things space! This week has been busy for the two Earth-orbiting space stations and has had no shortage of news for exploration. We'll also look ahead to the next week of launches worldwide.

SpaceX

SpaceX has continued work at Starbase with the delivery of another horizontal tank on the 14th of January to expand the orbital tank farm at the launch site.

Two days later on the 16th Super Heavy Booster 13 was seen receiving its 'forward barrel' during the stacking of this booster. The 16th also saw another horizontal tank being delivered to the launch site.

A day later on the 17th the tank farm was seen operating, likely for a test as no vehicles were at the launch site on the orbital launch mount or suborbital pads. Another day later, on the 18th, the Ship quick disconnect arm was seen making a series of small movements with teams working around it. This was followed by two retraction tests later once teams had cleared the area.

The 19th saw Super Heavy Booster 12 return to the production site from Massey's after it had undergone cryogenic testing. Booster 13 was also seen continuing stacking during this time.

Launches This Week

SpaceX started off the week launching twenty-three Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit atop of its Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The booster for this mission was B1073 making its twelfth flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas'.

Falcon 9 during first stage flight during the Starlink Group 6-37 mission. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 during first stage flight during the Starlink Group 6-37 mission. ©SpaceX

January 17th - Long March 7 with Tianzhou 7

A Long March 7 lifted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Site on Wednesday the 17th of January at 22:27 pm Beijing Time. The rocket was carrying the Tianzhou 7 cargo spacecraft to low Earth orbit where it chased down the Tiangong Space Station and docked to the Tianhe module at 02:07 am Beijing Time, on January 18th.

A Long March 7 lifting off from the Wenchang Space Launch Site carrying Tianzhou 7. ©China Manned Space Agency
A Long March 7 lifting off from the Wenchang Space Launch Site carrying Tianzhou 7. ©China Manned Space Agency

January 18th - Falcon 9 with Axiom-3

SpaceX launched the Axiom-3 mission to the International Space Station on the 18th of January. The Crew Dragon spacecraft for the mission is carrying Michael López-Alegría, Walter Villadei, Alper Gezeravcı, and Marcus Wandt onboard. The booster for this mission was B1080 making its fifth flight before it landed back at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral, in Florida.

Falcon 9 lifting off from LC-39A in Cape Canaveral for the Axiom-3 mission. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from LC-39A in Cape Canaveral for the Axiom-3 mission. ©SpaceX

January 20th - Qaem 100 with Soraya

Iran launched a Qaem 100 rocket to low Earth orbit believed to be carrying the Soraya satellite from the Shahrud Missile Test Site. The purpose of the satellite is unknown.

In Other Space News

LandSpace performs Zhuque-3's first hop!

The Zhuque-3 test vehicle during powered flight at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. ©LandSpace
The Zhuque-3 test vehicle during powered flight at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. ©LandSpace

On the 19th of January LandSpace reported that they had successfully completed the first test hop for its upcoming Zhuque-3 rocket! The sixty-second test flight had the vehicle fly to a height of 350 meters and land near its launch pad at a landing zone, landing only 2.4 meters from the center of the landing zone.

The next test flight is reportedly targeting a flight up to 10 kilometers!

The hop test vehicle, called VTVL-1, is powered by a single TQ-12B engine burning liquid methane and liquid oxygen to generate a believed 80 tons of thrust. The vehicle is made of a high-strength stainless steel and has three static legs for landing.

Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander returns to Earth

A view of Earth seen from Peregrine. ©Astrobotic
A view of Earth seen from Peregrine. ©Astrobotic

On the 18th, Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander entered the Earth's atmosphere after suffering from an anomaly on the way to the Moon. Peregrine was destroyed during entry over the South Pacific.

Shortly after Peregrine separated from United Launch Alliances Vulcan rocket the lunar lander suffered a loss of propellant from one of its tanks. With the loss of propellant, the lander was unable to enter orbit of the Moon or change its trajectory to avoid Earth's atmosphere.

Astrobotic is reportedly performing an investigation into the root cause of the problem ahead of the flight of its next lunar lander, Griffin, in November.

Japan lands on the Moon!

A render of SLIM on the lunar surface. ©JAXA
A render of SLIM on the lunar surface. ©JAXA

Also on the 19th of January, Japan's SLIM lunar lander touched down successfully on the lunar surface after an over four-month trip to the Moon. JAXA, Japan's space agency, confirmed the landing was a success two hours after landing however it was not generating power.

The lander did deploy two other vehicles just before landing called LEV-1 and LEV-2 which will operate for a few days on the surface.

Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, SLIM, is a seven-hundred kilogram lunar lander developed by JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The lander is meant to demonstrate precision landing technology from Japan.

Impulse unveils a new space tug

Artist Rendition of Helios © Impulse Space

American aerospace company, Impulse Space, unveiled their up-and-coming space tug, Helios! This next-generation space tug is powered by a liquid methane/liquid oxygen 15,000lbf (67KN) staged combustion cycle rocket engine, dubbed “Deneb.”Which is capable of 3 to 9km/s of Delta V (depending on payload mass).

Below are some of Helios' claimed capabilities:

Geostationary Orbit 4,000 to 4,500 kilograms
Geostationary Transfer Orbit 7,500 to 10,500 kilograms
Medium Earth Orbit 5,500 to 6,500 kilograms
Trans Lunar Injection 6,000 to 7,500 kilograms
Earth Escape (Mars Transfer) 4,500 to 5,500 kilograms

To add to this all, Helios is capable of launching on a wide array of rocket platforms such as: Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, Terran R, Starship, Vulcan, and New Glenn. Impulse currently plans to send Helios on its maiden journey, sometime in 2026! Click on this hyperlink if you want to get access to a PDF covering Helios in more detail!

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

Hardware is still being prepared for Starship's third flight with SpaceX believing they will receive regulatory approval in February. SpaceX still believes they will be hardware-ready for the flight by the end of the month. The launch would likely occur in mid-Febraury.

SpaceX is expected to launch another Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 4E in California carrying more Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. The booster is believed to be B0163 making its sixteenth flight.

January 23rd - Kinetica 1 for Flight 3

CAS Space is expected to launch a Kinetica 1 rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center carrying five Earth observation satellites for MINOSPACE to a sun-synchronous orbit.

January 27th - Electron for 'Four Of A Kind'

Rocket Lab is expected to launch Electron from Launch Complex 1B on the Mahia Peninsula, in New Zealand. Electron is believed to be carrying four 'space situational awareness' satellites for NorthStar Earth and Space.

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