Weekly Dose of Space (3/3-9/3)

Weekly Dose of Space (3/3-9/3)


Welcome back to Weekly Dose of Space! Last week saw three launches, all from SpaceX in under a day. This week also saw a variety of hardware development and planetary exploration news. SpaceX is also believed to be closing in on its third flight test of its Starship-Super Heavy vehicle. As always, we'll also look ahead to the launch schedule worldwide for next week too.

SpaceX

This week at Starbase started on the 3rd with Ship 28 and Booster 10 completing a wet dress rehearsal. The wet dress rehearsal was the third to be attempted using the two vehicles and is believed to be a success. A day later on the 4th, the boosters' grid fins were seen moving as part of a separate test.

Ship 28 and Booster 10 undergoing a wet dress rehearsal. ©SpaceX
Ship 28 and Booster 10 undergoing a wet dress rehearsal. ©SpaceX

On the 5th, Ship 28 was destacked from Booster 10 as it's believed to be undergoing final checks and hardware changes ahead of the third flight test. The next day teams were seen working on the ship's thermal protection tiles. Part of one of Booster 10's chines were removed as well so teams could access the composite overwrapped pressure vessels. Ship 29, which will be used on the fourth flight test, was also seen moving its flaps as part of its test campaign.

A few days later on the 8th, SpaceX teams were seen installing the flight termination system explosives on both Ship 28 and Booster 10. These explosives will destroy the vehicles in the event of a failure in flight.

As of writing on the 10th, Ship 28 is currently being stacked back ontop of Booster 10.

Launches This Week

March 4th - Falcon 9 with Crew-8

The first launch of the week was Crew-8 from Launch Complex 39A, in Florida. This mission sent four astronauts into orbit where they later boarded the International Space Station. The astronauts of the Crew-8 mission are Commander Matthew Dominick, Pilot Michael Barratt, Mission Specialist Jeanette Epps, and Mission Specialist Alexander Grebenkin.

This mission used booster B1083 on its first flight, the booster landed back at Landing Zone-1, in Florida, as planned. The Crew Dragon capsule for Crew-8 is Endeavor on its fifth flight to orbit.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Launch Complex 39A for the Crew-8 mission. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Launch Complex 39A for the Crew-8 mission. ©SpaceX

March 4th - Falcon 9 with Transporter 10

The next launch of the week occurred on the same day and was Transporter 10 from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California. This mission delivered fifty-three satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit.

The booster used for the Transporter-10 mission was B1081 making its fifth flight, the booster landed at Landing Zone 4, in California, as planned. B1081 has previously supported the Crew-7, CRS-29, Starlink Group 6-34, and PACE missions.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E for Transporter-10. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E for Transporter-10. ©SpaceX

The final launch of last week also happened on the 4th and was Starlink Group 6-41 from Space Launch Complex 40, in Florida. This mission sent twenty-three Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit to grow the company's space-based internet constellation.

The booster for this mission was B1073 making its thirteenth flight, which landed on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas' downrange as planned. B1073 has previously supported the Starlink Group 4-15, SES-22, Starlink Group 4-25, Starlink Group 4-35, HAKUTO-, Amazonas Nexus, CRS-27, Starlink Group 6-2, Starlink Group 5-11, Starlink Group 6-12, Starlink Group 6-27, Starlink Group 6-37 missions.

A long exposure photo showing the flight path of Falcon 9 during the Starlink Group 6-41 mission. ©SpaceX
A long exposure photo showing the flight path of Falcon 9 during the Starlink Group 6-41 mission. ©SpaceX

In Other Space News

Blue Origin aiming for 2025 lunar landing

A render of the Blue Moon Mark 1 lunar lander. ©Blue Origin
A render of the Blue Moon Mark 1 lunar lander. ©Blue Origin

As part of CBS' '60 Minutes' news program on the 3rd, Senior Vice President of Lunar Permanence at Blue Origin, John Couluris, said that Blue Origin was looking to launch its lunar lander between twelve and sixteen months from now.

The lander for the mission is the Mark 1 version of the Blue Moon vehicle and will only be capable of delivering cargo to the surface of the Moon. Blue Origin believes that the lander is a suitable platform to develop its BE-7 engine and prove the company's technical capabilities ahead of the Artemis 5 mission, which Blue Origin is developing the lander for.

The lander for the Artemis 5 mission is the Mark 2 version of Blue Moon and will be able to carry crew and cargo. Mark 1 is planned to be able to land using just one launch of New Glenn with Mark 2 believed to need three.

LandSpace's TQ-15A completes testing

LandSpace's TQ-15A during a test firing. ©LandSpace
LandSpace's TQ-15A during a test firing. ©LandSpace

LandSpace released an update on the 7th saying that its TQ-15A engine had passed assembly and acceptance testing. The engine is a crucial step for the development of the Zhuque-3 rocket, which is planned to be re-usable with a debut planned for next year.

The engine is also planned to be used on the Zhuque-2's second-stage and provide performance improvement of almost 12% increase in performance and a specific impulse improvement of 126m/s.

The new TQ-15A engine is expected to debut on the second batch of the Zhuque-2 rocket and increase its payload capacity to a sun-synchronus orbit, this is believed to be a little over 4,000 kilograms now. The second batch is currently believed to have begun final assembly with three launches planned this year.

China aims for Mars sample mission in 2030

The Zhurong Mars rover on the surface of Mars as part of the Tianwen-1 mission. ©China National Space Administration
The Zhurong Mars rover on the surface of Mars as part of the Tianwen-1 mission. ©China National Space Administration

In between the ongoing Two Sessions in China, Sun Zezhou, Chief Designer of the Tianwen-1 spacecraft, said that progress on Tianwen-3 is progressing smoothly with all technologies needed for the mission 'in place'.

The Tianwen-3 mission is currently scheduled to take place in 2030 due to the complexities of the mission. To date, no country has returned samples from the surface of Mars.

To retrieve the samples from around the landing site the Tianwen-3 teams are believed to be considering a small helicopter, similar to NASA's Ingenuity, or a six-wheeled rover.

NASA is also aiming to complete a Mars sample return mission around 2031 but has faced funding and political support challenges with the cost now surpassing four billion United States Dollars.

Stratolaunch's Talon-A goes supersonic

Talon-A after being released from its Roc carrier plane. ©Stratolaunch/Ethan Wagner
Talon-A after being released from its Roc carrier plane. ©Stratolaunch/Ethan Wagner

In a largely secretive flight, Talon-A went supersonic for the first time. The experimental hypersonic aircraft is reported to have reached approximately Mach 5 at the "target altitude".

The objectives for the flight were accomplishing safe air-launch release of the TA-1 vehicle, engine ignition, acceleration, sustained climb in altitude, and a controlled water landing. Talon-A is believed to have achieved these goals successfully.

The flight is believed to have happened on the 9th of March.

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

Next week SpaceX may launch Starship-Super Heavy for the third time, pending regulatory approval. The earliest launch date is the 14th of March. For a full rundown of the third flight test click here.

SpaceX is hoping to launch another twenty-three satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40, in Florida. The booster for the mission is believed to be B1077 making its eleventh flight.

SpaceX is planning to launch another Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California, carrying twenty-three Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. The booster for this mission is believed to be B1063 making its seventeenth flight.

March 12th - Electron for 'Owl Night Long'

Rocket Lab is expected to launch Electron from Launch Complex 1B, in the Mahia Peninsula. Electron is planned to be carrying the StriX-3 satellite for Synspective.

March 13th - KAIROS for its maiden flight

Space One is planning to launch its KAIROS launch vehicle from Space Port Kii in Japan. The launch vehicle is believed to be carrying a prototype 'quick response' satellite for the Japanese government.

SpaceX is once again aiming to launch its Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A, in Florida, carrying yet more Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. The booster for the mission is currently unknown.

March 14th - Starship-Super Heavy for IFT-3

SpaceX is targeting no earlier than the 14th for the third flight test of its Starship-Super Heavy launch vehicle. The rocket will make it to a near orbital trajectory as part of the test flight.

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