Weekly Dose of Space (26/5-1/6)

Weekly Dose of Space (26/5-1/6)


Welcome back to Weekly Dose of Space! Last week saw eight orbital launch attempts worldwide, with all but one succeeding. This week also saw the European Space Agency kick off a new agreement and a long-awaited lunar mission be canceled. As always, we'll also look ahead to the launch schedule worldwide for next week.

SpaceX

This week at Starbase started on the 26th, Ship 29 was once again stacked atop of Booster 11 using the 'chopsticks' of the launch tower. Not long after the stacking, the Ship quick disconnect arm was seen performing a disconnect test, this mimics what part of the arm will go through during flight.

On the 27th, the deluge system under the orbital launch mount, which protects the launch pad from the energy of thirty-three Raptor engines, was seen performing a deluge test at a low power setting. The next day on the 28th, Ship 29 and Booster 11 once again went through a wet dress rehearsal, this time fully fuelling the liquid oxygen and liquid methane tanks in both vehicles. Once filled with propellant, they remained full for almost thirty minutes, likely simulation a hold in the countdown. After both vehicles had been unloaded of propellant, a full power test of the deluge system was performed.

Ship 29 and Booster 11 during the second wet dress rehearsal ahead of flight four. ©SpaceX
Ship 29 and Booster 11 during the second wet dress rehearsal ahead of flight four. ©SpaceX

The 29th saw Ship 29 being destacked from Booster 11 once again, however this destack allowed SpaceX teams to install flight termination system explosives on both vehicles on the 30th. The next day on the 31st, the LR11000 crane was lowered, this is usually a sign that launch is imminent, followed not long after by Ship 29 being stacked on Booster 11 once again, and hopefully for the final time.

Launches This Week

May 27th - Chŏllima-1 with Malligyong-1-1

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea attempted what is believed to have been a fourth launch of its Chŏllima-1 launch vehicle from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, which is on the Yellow Sea, headed to a sun-synchronus orbit. A few minutes into flight the flight ended when it disintegrated mid-air, destroying the rocket. The payload onboard is believed to have been another military reconnaissance satellite.

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 carrying a batch of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40, twenty-three satellites were onboard for this mission. The booster for this mission was B1078 making its tenth flight and landing successfully on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas' downrange.

Falcon 9 during first-stage flight for Starlink Group 6-63. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 during first-stage flight for Starlink Group 6-63. ©SpaceX

May 28th - Falcon 9 with EarthCARE

The European Space Agency's EarthCARE, Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer, mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4E atop of a Falcon 9 with it being successfully delivered to a sun-synchronus orbit. The booster for this mission was B1081 making its seventh flight and successfully landing back at Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base. For more about the EarthCARE mission click here.

B1081 landing at Landing Zone 4 after supporting the EarthCARE launch. ©SpaceX
B1081 landing at Landing Zone 4 after supporting the EarthCARE launch. ©SpaceX

May 29th - Ceres-1S with Tianqi No. 25-28

Galactic Energy kicked off its launches for the year with a Ceres-1S launching from the Dong Fang Hang Tian Gang sea launch vessel approximately three miles off of the coast of the city of Rizhao in the Yellow Sea. The payloads atop of the rocket were four Tianqi satellites for a commercial 'internet of things' and communications network of spacecraft in low Earth orbit. 

Ceres-1S Y2 lifting off from its launch ship in the Yellow Sea.
Ceres-1S Y2 lifting off from its launch ship in the Yellow Sea.

May 30th - Soyuz 2.1a with Progress MS-27

Roscosmos launched a Progress resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station atop of a Soyuz 2.1a from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Aboard the Progress MS-27 spacecraft are approximately 2,500 kilograms of supplies for the crew and various new experiments.

May 30th - Long March 3B/E with Paksat MM1R

China launched its second Long March 3B/E of the month carrying Paksat MM1R to a geosynchronous transfer orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Paksat-MM1R is claimed as being able to provide television, radio, and regional communications in Pakistan. For more about this launch and the spacecraft click here.

The Long March 3B/E Y96 lifting off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
The Long March 3B/E Y96 lifting off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

May 31st - Ceres-1 with five satellites

A second Ceres-1 launched during May, and a day and a half after the last, this time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Aboard the rocket were Jiguang-01, Jiguang-02, Yunyao-1 14, Yunyao-1 25, and Yunyao-1 26. All five satellites are believed to be healthy in an approximately 535-kilometer sun-synchronus orbit. 

Ceres-1 Y12 lifting off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
Ceres-1 Y12 lifting off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

SpaceX launched another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit at the start of June from Space Launch Complex 40. The booster for this mission was B1076, on its fourteenth flight, with a landing on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 for Starlink Group 6-64. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 for Starlink Group 6-64. ©SpaceX

In Other Space News

Starship circumlunar flight canceled

Starship in its 2018 design near the Moon. ©SpaceX
Starship in its 2018 design near the Moon. ©SpaceX

SpaceX Starship's first planned lunar tourism mission was abruptly canceled on June 1st by its billionaire backer Yusaku Maezawa. The mission was supposedly canceled due to delays related to Starship's development, as the vehicle is yet to successfully enter Earth orbit and return.

Yusaku Maezawa booked the mission back in 2018 with it expected to take place in 2023, this did not take place due to Starship debuting in April of 2023 and only making one other test flight that year. The notice of cancelation was very brief and did not expand on why Maezawa chose to cancel it outright instead of delaying it into the coming years.

The crew was expected to be: Yusaku Maezawa, Steve Aoki, Tim Dodd, Yemi Akinyemi Dele, Rhiannon Adam, Karim Iliya, Brendan Hall, Dev Joshi, Choi Seung-hyun, Kaitlyn Farrington, and Miyu.

ESA starts agreement for zero orbital debris by 2030

The European Space Agency's patch logo.
The European Space Agency's patch logo.

The European Space Agency has recently started the 'Zero Debris Charter' which aims for no additional orbital debris on orbit by 2030. The 'Zero Debris Charter' is a non-binding agreement and currently has twelve signatories.

The current signatories of the charter are: Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Estonia Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom. According to European Space Agency Director General, Josef Aschbacher, one-hundred expressions of interest to sign the charter have been received.

Quentin Verspieren, Space Safety Program Coordinator at the European Space Agency, said the following about the charter in a statement:

“The Zero Debris Charter signals Europe’s unwavering commitment to be a global leader on space debris mitigation and remediation, fostering collective action of a large community of space actors from all around the world”

The charter is reportedly not limited to just European countries or companies but any non-European expression of interest to sign are not yet known.

Chang'e 6 lands on the Moon!

A render of the Chang'e 6 spacecraft on the lunar surface.
A render of the Chang'e 6 spacecraft on the lunar surface.

China's latest lunar exploration mission, Chang'e 6, touched down on the Moon at 22:23 pm Universal Coordinated Time on the 1st of June. The spacecraft will operate on the surface for forty-eight hours, gathering surface samples and performing a handful of experiments.

Once the spacecraft has gathered surface samples and secured them onboard, it will liftoff from the lunar surface and rendevous with its orbiter in lunar orbit ahead of a return to Earth. For more about the Chang'e 6 landing click here.

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

SpaceX is targeting June 6th for the fourth flight test of Starship-Super Heavy. The only remaining obstacle left ahead of launch is regulatory approval via a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The two vehicles SpaceX is expected to fly for the test are Ship 29 and Booster 11, both vehicles have completed static fire tests and two wet dress rehearsals ahead of flight. For more details on the next flight test click here.

Another Starlink batch is expected to head to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 atop of a Falcon 9. The booster and drone ship for this mission are currently unknown.

June 5th - Electron for 'PREFIRE And Ice'

Rocket Lab is expected to carry NASA's second PREFIRE, Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment, satellite to polar orbit from Launch Complex 1B. The PREFIRE mission consists of two satellites that will measure the Earth's temperatures at each pole.

Yet another batch of Starlink satellites are expected to be launched atop of Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 4E. The booster and drone ship for this mission are also currently unknown.

June 5th - Atlas V with Starliner Crewed Flight Test

United Launch Alliance is expected to launch Boeing's Starliner spacecraft into low Earth orbit carrying astronauts Barry Wilmore and Suni Williams onboard. The mission is the first crewed test flight of the Starliner spacecraft, and its second trip to the space station.

June 6th - Starship-Super Heavy flight four

SpaceX is believed to be targeting no earlier than June 6th for the fourth flight test of Starship-Super Heavy. The two vehicles SpaceX is expected to fly for the test are Ship 29 and Booster 11.

Another batch of Starlink satellites is expected to be launched from Space Launch Complex 40 atop of Falcon 9. The booster and drone ship for this mission are once again unknown.

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