Weekly Dose of Space (26/11-2/12)

Weekly Dose of Space (26/11-2/12)


Welcome to Weekly Dose of Space! In this week's newsletter, we'll cover the three launches of the week and the news of the past week. We'll also look ahead into what to expect next week too!

SpaceX

SpaceX has continued to move hardware around Starbase in Texas in the two weeks since the second integrated flight test of the Starship-Super Heavy launch vehicle. Teams at SpaceX are likely testing and repairing systems at the launch site ahead of the third integrated flight test.

Launches This Week

Rounding out the launches for November, SpaceX launched twenty-three of its Starlink internet satellites, used to provide space-based internet to customers on Earth, into low Earth orbit. The booster for this mission was B1062 making its seventeenth flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'Just Read the Instructions'.

A long exposure shot of Falcon 9 during flight for the Starlink 6-30 mission. ©SpaceX
A long exposure shot of Falcon 9 during flight for the Starlink 6-30 mission. ©SpaceX

December 1st - Soyuz 2.1a with Progress MS-25

Starting launches in December, Russia launched Progress MS-25 to the International Space Station for resupply services. The launch vehicle for Progress MS-25 was a Soyuz 2.1a.

Progress MS-25 will dock with the Poisk Module of the Russian Orbital Segment of the International Space Station.

Soyuz 2.1a carrying Progress MS-25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. ©NASA
Soyuz 2.1a carrying Progress MS-25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. ©NASA

December 1st - Falcon 9 with 425 Project Flight 1

Another SpaceX Falcon 9 launched this week but from Space Launch Complex 4E in Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The booster for this mission was B1061 making its seventeenth flight and landing back at Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The 425 Project Flight 1 is the first of five reconnaissance satellites for South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration.

This was also the 250th landing of a Falcon 9 booster!

Falcon 9 lifting off from its launchpad at Space Launch Complex 4E. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from its launchpad at Space Launch Complex 4E. ©SpaceX

In Other Space News

Disclaimer: The news this week includes two stories from the November 2023 Month Dose of Space due to how close this Weekly Dose of Space was written to it.

Artemis III unlikely to take place in 2025

SpaceX's Human Landing System during its trans-lunar injection burn. ©u/ForestKatsch on r/SpaceXLounge
SpaceX's Human Landing System during its trans-lunar injection burn. ©u/ForestKatsch on r/SpaceXLounge

The United States Government Accountability Office released a report on the 30th of November claiming to find several challenges likely to delay the Artemis III mission. The Government Accountability Office claims four major reasons for the possible delay; a too-ambitious schedule from NASA, many delays to key events from SpaceX, a large amount of work remaining for SpaceX, and design challenges for Axiom's suits.

The Government Accountability Office claims the following for the amount of work for SpaceX;

"SpaceX must complete a significant amount of complex technical work to support the Artemis III lunar landing mission, including developing the ability to store and transfer propellant while in orbit. A critical aspect of SpaceX's plan for landing astronauts on the moon for Artemis III is launching multiple tankers that will transfer propellant to a depot in space before transferring that propellant to the human landing system. NASA documentation states that SpaceX has made limited progress maturing the technologies needed to support this aspect of its plan."

The Government Accountability Office claimed the following for Axiom's suit challenges;

"Axiom is leveraging many aspects of NASA's prior work to develop modernized space suits, but significant work remains to resolve design challenges. For example, NASA's original design did not provide the minimum amount of emergency life support needed for the Artemis III mission. As a result, Axiom representatives said they may redesign certain aspects of the space suit, which could delay its delivery for the mission."

The Government Accountability Office claims the following key event delays from SpaceX;

"As of September 2023, the Human Landing System program had delayed eight of 13 key events by at least 6 months. Two of these events have been delayed to 2025—the year the lander is planned to launch. The delays were caused in part by the Orbital Flight Test, which was intended to demonstrate certain features of the launch vehicle and lander configuration in flight. The test was delayed by 7 months to April 2023. It was then terminated early when the vehicle deviated from its expected trajectory and began to tumble. Subsequent tests rely on successful completion of a second Orbital Flight Test."

And finally, the Government Accountability Office claimed the following for NASA's ambitious schedule;

"The Human Landing System program is aiming to complete its development—from project start to launch—in 79 months, which is 13 months shorter than the average for NASA major projects. The complexity of human spaceflight suggests that it is unrealistic to expect the program to complete development more than a year faster than the average for NASA major projects, the majority of which are not human spaceflight projects. GAO found that if development took as long as the average for NASA major projects, the Artemis III mission would likely occur in early 2027."

If you would like to read the full report from the Government Accountability Office it is currently available here.

Amazon buys three SpaceX launches for Project Kuiper

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

On the 1st of December, Amazon announced it had signed a contract with SpaceX for three launches on Falcon 9 to support deployment of spacecraft for Project Kuiper. Amazon believes this will allow them to reduce schedule risk and have its satellite constellation operational sooner with recent delays to Ariane 6 and New Glenn.

The company also stated that the three SpaceX launches are currently targeting mid-2025 for launch.

New Glenn to launch Mars satellites for NASA on first flight

New Glenn's first stage tanks outside of Blue Origin's factory. ©NSF/Max Evans
New Glenn's first stage tanks outside of Blue Origin's factory. ©NSF/Max Evans

Late last week, NASA's Bradley Smith, Director of Launch Services for Space Operations, announced that the launch of the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission is currently targeting an August 2024 launch. This would also be the first launch of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket.

According to NASA ESCAPADE consists of two identical interplanetary Photon spacecraft developed by Rocket Lab. Both spacecraft are about the size of a mini-fridge and weigh no more than roughly 250 pounds (120 kilograms) excluding fuel. ESCAPADE plans to study how Mars’ magnetosphere interacts with the solar wind, and the processes driving its atmospheric escape.

NASASpaceFlight's Max Evans also spotted the first-stage tanks (pictured above) outside of buildings at Blue Origin's campus close to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

The date of the third integrated flight test is still unknown outside of SpaceX with it seeming less likely to take place this year. SpaceX and the Federal Aviation Administration are still performing the mishap investigation into Starship-Super Heavy's second flight.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 will launch Starlink Group 6-31 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The booster and drone ship for this mission is currently unknown.

December 4th - Long March 2C with a to-be-announced payload

A Long March 2C is expected to launch from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The payload is not yet known and is likely to be announced after the launch.

December 4th - Ceres-1 with a to-be-announced payload

A Ceres-1 is expected to launch from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The payload is not yet known and is likely to be announced after the launch.

December 5th - Smart Dragon 3 with a to-be-announced payload

A Smart Dragon 3 is expected to launch to a sun-synchronous orbit from a ship at sea designed to support rocket launches. The payload is not yet known and is likely to be announced after the launch.

Another SpaceX Falcon 9 will launch Starlink Group 6-33 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The booster and drone ship for this mission is currently unknown.

December 6th - Zhuque-2 for Flight 3

LandSpace is expected to make its first operational flight of Zhuque-2 for a customer mission. The payload and customer are not yet known and are likely to be announced after the launch.

SpaceX currently plans to launch another batch of Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 4E. The booster is currently unknown but it is likely that it will land on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'. The date of this launch is more likely to slip than others listed this week.

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