Weekly Dose of Space (29/10-4/11)

Weekly Dose of Space (29/10-4/11)


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

SpaceX

SpaceX started the month at Starbase with the restacking of Ship 25 atop of Booster 9, with the flight termination system yet to be armed, on the 1st of November. The next day, the 2nd of November, Ship 25 was destacked from Booster 9 and returned to the ground next to it. On the 3rd of November, SpaceX announced it was targeting mid-November for IFT-2, with internet sleuths finding the date November 13th in the code of the IFT-2 webpage.

Starship and Super Heavy will remain on the ground however until SpaceX receives regulatory approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

A video of Starship 25 and Super Heavy Booster 9 on its launch pad in Starbase Texas via SpaceX on X (formerly Twitter).

Launches This Week

Kicking off the launches this week was SpaceX launching twenty-two more Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4E in Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The booster for this mission was B1075 making its seventh flight and landing downrange on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-4E ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-4E ©SpaceX

A few days after its previous launch SpaceX launched another twenty-three Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit, this time from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The booster for this mission was B1077 making its eighth flight and landing on the drone ship 'Just Read The Instructions' down range.

Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-40 ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-40 ©SpaceX

October 31st - Long March 6A with Tianhui 5

Ending out October was a Long March 6A lifting off from Launch Complex 9A at Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The Long March 6A carried the Tianhui 5 satellite to a sun-synchronous orbit. The Tianhu 5 spacecraft is officially described as being for 'cartographic surveying purposes'. This was also the fiftieth rocket launch of the year from China.

Long March 6A with Tianhui 5 lifting off from its launch pad at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.
Long March 6A with Tianhui 5 lifting off from its launch pad at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. ©Xinhua

November 2nd - SpaceShipTwo for Galactic 05

Keeping up with its monthly cadence of the past few months was Virgin Galactic launching SpaceShipTwo for its Galactic 05 commercial suborbital spaceflight. The customers for this flight on VSS Unity were; Dr. Alan Stern, U.S. Planetary Scientist and Associate Vice President in Southwest Research Institute’s Space Sector, Kellie Gerardi, U.S. Payload Specialist and Bioastronautics Researcher for the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences, and Ketty Pucci-Sisti Maisonrouge who flew with science payloads.

SpaceShipTwo during powered flight for Galactic 05.
SpaceShipTwo during powered flight for Galactic 05. ©Virgin Galactic

November 3rd - Long March 7A with TJSW-10

A Long March 7A launched from Wenchang Space Launch Site carrying the TJSW-10 satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit. The spacecraft is claimed to be for communication technology test purposes.

Long March 7A lifting off from Wenchang Space Launch Site. ©CASC/李康、孙钰程

For the final launch of the week, SpaceX launched yet another twenty-three Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit for its space-based internet mega constellation. The booster for this mission was B1058 making its eighteenth flight and landed down range on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'. Booster B1058 currently holds the booster reused record and is SpaceX's booster fleet leader!

Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-40 ©SpaceX

In Other Space News

Lucy discovers second asteroid with Dinkinesh

Dinkinesh as seen by Lucy from a range of approximately 430 kilometers away. ©NASA
Dinkinesh as seen by Lucy from a range of approximately 430 kilometers away. ©NASA

NASA's Lucy spacecraft recently flew by asteroid 152830 Dinkinesh to perform a test of the spacecraft's terminal tracking system. During the flyby of 152830 Dinkinesh it was discovered to be a binary pair of asteroids! After making this discovery NASA said the following in a news release;

In the weeks prior to the spacecraft’s encounter with Dinkinesh, the Lucy team had wondered if Dinkinesh might be a binary system, given how Lucy’s instruments were seeing the asteroid’s brightness changing with time. The first images from the encounter removed all doubt. Dinkinesh is a close binary. From a preliminary analysis of the first available images, the team estimates that the larger body is approximately 0.5 miles (790 m) at its widest, while the smaller is about 0.15 miles (220 m) in size.

Lucy is a NASA Discovery program mission that was launched on the 16th of October 2021 atop of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V in its 401 configuration. NASA plans to have Lucy visit seven asteroids over the course of 12 years and heading out as far as the orbit of Jupiter.

Sierra Space completes Dream Chaser 'Tenacity'

Dream Chaser 'Tenacity' during its construction. ©Sierra Space
Dream Chaser 'Tenacity' during its construction. ©Sierra Space

Sierra Space recently announced that it had completed construction on its first Dream Chaser spaceplane 'Tenacity'. The company currently expects to ship 'Tenacity' to NASA's Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility for environmental testing in the coming weeks. Tom Vice, the Cheif Executive Officer of Sierra Space, said the following in a press release from the announcement of 'Tenacity's' completion;

“Today we have arrived at a profound milestone in both our company’s journey and our industry’s future – one that has been years in the making and is shaped by audacious dreaming and tenacious doing” – I am reminded of a comment made by Steve Jobs that every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. I think Dream Chaser is that product. This breakthrough shifts paradigms and redefines space travel. The Dream Chaser is not just a product; it’s a testament to human spirit, determination and the relentless pursuit of what lies beyond.”

NASA may extend ISS operations beyond 2030

The International Space Station as seen from above. ©ESA
The International Space Station as seen from above. ©ESA

Ken Bowersox, NASA associate administrator for space operations, speaking at the Beyond Earth Symposium stated that it is "not mandatory" for NASA to retire the International Space Station in 2030 depending on the readiness of commercial space stations. Ken Bowsersox went on to say the following;

“It’s not mandatory that we stop flying the ISS in 2030. But, it is our full intention to switch to new platforms when they’re available” and “The timeline is flexible”

Currently, NASA, ESA, JAXA, and the Canadian Space Agency have agreed to operate the International Space Station until 2030 with Roscosmos agreeing until 2028.

Apollo astronaut Ken Mattingly dies at 87

Ken Mattingly aboard of Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-4 in 1982. ©NASA
Ken Mattingly aboard of Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-4 in 1982. ©NASA

On the 2nd of November 2023, NASA announced the death of Apollo and Space Shuttle astronaut Ken Mattingly had occurred two days prior on the 31st of October. Mattingly flew into space three times for Apollo 16, in which he orbited the Moon, STS-4, in which he orbited Earth in Space Shuttle Columbia, and STS-51C, in which he orbited Earth in Space Shuttle Discovery for his final trip to space.

After his retirement from NASA in 1985, Mattingly worked as the Director of Grumman's Space Station Support Division followed by heading the Atlas booster program for General Dynamics and then as Vice President of the X-33 program at Lockheed Martin.

i-Space completes hop test of Hyperbola-2

Hyperbola-2 in flight above its launch and landing pad. ©i-Space
Hyperbola-2 in flight above its launch and landing pad. ©i-Space

Chinese commercial launch company i-Space recently completed a hop test with its demonstrator of the Hyperbola-2 first stage. The test article was powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen and flew to a height of one-hundred and seventy-eight meters while in flight for fifty seconds. After the test i-Space said the following, according to state news media;

"Through this test mission, the core data of key technologies have been obtained, and the mission has provided technical support for the development of medium and large reusable liquid oxygen methane rockets"

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

If SpaceX receives regulatory approval soon it is likely that we will see the flight termination system being armed. If the flight termination system is armed, Ship 25 will likely be stacked on Booster 9 for the last time before flight. This means, that within the next week, we could see a potential IFT-2 launch attempt!

November 7th - Falcon 9 with Transporter 9

SpaceX is expected to launch the ninth Transporter mission to sun-synchronous. Transporter 9 is expected to deploy dozens of small microsatellites and nanosatellites for commercial and government customers. The booster for the mission is expected to return to Vandenberg Space Force Base after launch and land at Landing Zone 4.

Even more Starlink satellites are expected to be placed into low Earth orbit by SpaceX. The launch is expected to be from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

November 9th - Long March 3B/E with a to-be-announced payload

A Long March 3B/E is expected to launch from Launch Complex 2 in Xichang Satellite Launch Center carrying a yet-to-be-announced payload. It is likely to be a Yaogan satellite.

November 10th - Falcon 9 with CRS-29

SpaceX is expected to launch its twenty-ninth commercial resupply service to the International Space Station. The booster for the mission is expected to return to Cape Canaveral after launch and land at Landing Zone 1.

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