Weekly Dose of Space (23/6-30/6)

Weekly Dose of Space (23/6-30/6)


Welcome back to Weekly Dose of Space! Last week saw six orbital launches worldwide, with half being for SpaceX's Starlink constellation. This week also saw NASA select the U.S. International Space Station deorbit vehicle, and the China National Space Administration revealed how much Moon rock Chang'e 6 brought back! As always, we'll also look ahead to the launch schedule worldwide for next week.

SpaceX

This week at Starbase started on the 23rd when the final outer shell for the older vertical tank farm was removed, ahead of the removal and scrapping of the remaining vertical tanks. Scrapping of the shell began the following day on the 24th.

On the 26th one of the 'chopsticks' was seen moving multiple times toward Booster 14.1 for what appeared to be catch testing. The 'chopsticks' were also raised after moving toward Booster 14.1. This testing was also repeated on the 27th. The 27th also saw Booster 14.1 lifted off of the orbital launch mount.

The 28th saw tower sections arrive from Kennedy Space Center, along with the 'chopsticks' for the second orbital launch tower. Additionally, Ship 30 was still having work done last week to replace all of its thermal protection tiles ahead of flight.

Launches This Week

SpaceX kicked off last week's launches with a Falcon 9 carrying twenty-two Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40, in Florida. The booster for this mission was B1078, on its eleventh flight, which successfully landed downrange on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 for Starlink Group 10-2. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 for Starlink Group 10-2. ©SpaceX

SpaceX launched another twenty Starlink satellites atop of Falcon 9, this time from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California. The booster for this mission was B1075, flying for the eleventh time, with it successfully landing on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You' downrange.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E for Starlink Group 9-2. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E for Starlink Group 9-2. ©SpaceX

June 25th - Falcon Heavy with GOES-U

SpaceX's tenth Falcon Heavy mission lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, in Flordia, carrying the GOES-U satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit on behalf of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The boosters for this mission were B1087, making its first and only flight, B1086, flying for its first mission and landing back at Landing Zone 2, and B1072, also flying for its first mission and landing back at Landing Zone 1.

Falcon Heavy carrying GOES-U from Launch Complex 39A. ©SpaceX
Falcon Heavy carrying GOES-U from Launch Complex 39A. ©SpaceX

Yet another Falcon 9 carried twenty-three Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission was B1062 making its twenty-second flight, a new record in the Falcon 9 booster fleet, and landing downrange on the droneship 'Just Read the Instructions'.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 for Starlink Group 10-3. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 for Starlink Group 10-3. ©SpaceX

June 29th - Falcon 9 with NROL-186

A Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4E carrying a batch of satellites to low Earth orbit on behalf of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The booster for this mission was B1081 flying for the eighth time and landing on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You' downrange.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E for NROL-186. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E for NROL-186. ©SpaceX

June 29th - Long March 7A with ChinaSat-3A

China conducted its thirtieth launch of the year with a Long March 7A lifting off from Launch Complex 201 at the Wenchang Space Launch Site, in the southernmost province of Hainan. The payload atop of the Long March 7A was ChinaSat-3A, which was successfully placed into a geostationary transfer orbit.

The Long March 7A Y8 vehicle lifting off from Launch Complex 201 at the Wenchang Space Launch Site.
The Long March 7A Y8 vehicle lifting off from Launch Complex 201 at the Wenchang Space Launch Site.

In Other Space News

SpaceX selected by NASA to deorbit ISS

The International Space Station in November of 2021. ©NASA
The International Space Station in November of 2021. ©NASA

NASA announced on June 26th that it had selected SpaceX to develop and deliver the U.S. deorbit vehicle for the International Space Station. This vehicle will be used to ensure that the International Space Station re-enters the atmosphere over a remote point in the Pacific in 2030.

Ken Bowersox, Associate Administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, said the following in NASA's press release about the selection:

“Selecting a U.S. Deorbit Vehicle for the International Space Station will help NASA and its international partners ensure a safe and responsible transition in low Earth orbit at the end of station operations. This decision also supports NASA’s plans for future commercial destinations and allows for the continued use of space near Earth.”

SpaceX is expected to develop the deorbit spacecraft with NASA taking ownership after development, along with operating it throughout its mission. The contract had a total potential value of 843 million United States Dollars, with the launch contract of the spacecraft expected to be procured sometime in the future.

Chang'e 6 brings back 1,935 grams of Moon rock

The Chang'e 6 re-entry capsule being opened during a ceremony at the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing. ©Xinhua
The Chang'e 6 re-entry capsule being opened during a ceremony at the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing. ©Xinhua

During a handover ceremony of the lunar surface samples brought back by Chang'e 6, the China National Space Administration announced that the mission brought back 1,935.3 grams of samples. The handover ceremony had Zhang Kejian, Head of the China National Space Administration, hand over the Chang'e 6 sample container to Ding Chibiao, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

During the ceremony, Ge Ping, Spokesperson for the Chang'e 6 mission, spoke to the press and said:

"We have found that the samples brought back by Chang'e-6 were more viscous compared to previous samples, with the presence of clumps. These are observable characteristics"

The lunar surface samples are expected to be distributed to various research laboratories in the coming weeks, both in China and internationally.

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

SpaceX is still awaiting regulatory approval to fly the fifth flight test of Starship-Super Heavy. Additionally, some testing still needs to be performed prior, most notably a wet dress rehearsal of the countdown with both vehicles. It also remains to be seen if SpaceX will aim to land the booster back at the launch site.

July 1st - H3 with ALOS-4

The third H3 rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center is expected to carry the ALOS-4, Advanced Land Observing Satellite-4, satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit. ALOS-4 will observe the Earth's surface using a phased array L-band synthetic aperture radar.

July 2nd - Hyperbola-1 carrying a to-be-confirmed payload

iSpace is believed to be targeting the launch of its Hyperbola-1 rocket on July 1st from Launch Area 95A at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. iSpace has not yet revealed any details about possible payloads.

July 2nd - Firefly Alpha for 'Noise of Summer'

Firefly Aerospace is expected to launch its Firefly Alpha rocket from Space Launch Complex 2W, in California, carrying eight CubeSats for NASA's ELaNa 43 mission. The rocket will place the eight satellites into a low Earth orbit.

SpaceX is expected to launch a Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 to low Earth orbit carrying another batch of Starlink satellites. The booster and drone ship for this mission is currently unknown.

July 5th - Long March 6A carrying a to-be-confirmed payload

A Long March 6A is believed to be targeting launch from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center carrying a currently unknown payload on July 5th.

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