Weekly Dose of Space (31/12-6/1)

Weekly Dose of Space (31/12-6/1)


Welcome to Weekly Dose of Space! The first week of 2024 has not seen the launch cadence slow down. Interesting news has also come out in the past week too. We'll also look ahead to the first week of launches in 2024.

SpaceX

SpaceX kicked off the new year at Starbase on the 2nd of January rolling Super Heavy Booster 10 back to the production site. This is likely for final hardware installation and checks ahead of flight.

On the 4th, Ship 30 was believed to be undergoing cryogenic proof testing at the Masseys test site. Ship 31 was also seen heading into the 'High Bay' at the production site. Ship 28 was also spotted heading towards the production site.

The following day on the 5th Ship 31 was spotted receiving two of its flaps on the bottom of the vehicle. The 'chopsticks' were also seen to be receiving a new coat of paint.

Through the night of the 5th and into the 6th teams were seen removing one of the water tanks of the 'orbital tank farm' ahead of scrapping.

Launches This Week

January 1st - PSLV-DL with XPoSat

India launched XPoSat atop of a PSLV rocket in the DL configuration from the Satish Dhawan Space Center. XPoSat, or X-ray Polarimeter Satellite, is India's first dedicated mission to study various dynamics of bright astronomical X-ray sources in extreme conditions. The XPoSat spacecraft was placed into low Earth orbit successfully.

PSLV-DL lifting off from its launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center. ©ISRO
PSLV-DL lifting off from its launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center. ©ISRO

SpaceX launched twenty-one more Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base, in California. The booster for this mission was B1082 making its first flight and landing on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

Deployment of twenty-one Starlink satellites on orbit via SpaceX on X (formerly Twitter)

January 3rd - Falcon 9 with Ovzon-3

SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 this time from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, in Florida. The mission launched the Ovzon-3 communication satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit. The booster for this mission was B1076 making its tenth flight and landing back at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral.

Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-40 in Florida. ©SpaceX

January 5th - Kuaizhou-1A with Tianmu-1 15-18

ExPace launched a Kuaizhou-1A from Launch Area 95A at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in northern China, believed to be carrying four Tianmu-1 meteorology research satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit.

Kuaizhou-1A lifting off from its launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
Kuaizhou-1A lifting off from its launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

In Other Space News

SpaceX's Starlink satellites in a payload processing facility at Vandenberg Space Force base. ©SpaceX
SpaceX's Starlink satellites in a payload processing facility at Vandenberg Space Force base. ©SpaceX

SpaceX sent six 'direct to cell' Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit alongside fifteen 'regular' Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit on the 3rd of January as part of its Starlink Group 7-9 mission.

In an update on its website, SpaceX stated the following for who will be using the 'direct to cell' Starlink satellites:

Global cellular providers using Direct to Cell to gain reciprocal access in all partner nations include T-Mobile in the U.S., Rogers in Canada, KDDI in Japan, Optus in Australia, One NZ in New Zealand, Salt in Switzerland, and Entel in Chile and Peru.

SpaceX only launched six 'direct to cell' Starlink satellites on this mission can mean one of two things. The first is that these are just test satellites and it was economical to launch the other fifteen satellites. The second is that the satellites need major modification in order to be capable of 'direct to cell' service.

India to launch with SpaceX

SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. ©KC Grim
SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. ©KC Grim

On the 2nd of January, New Space India Ltd announced that it would launch the GSAT-20 spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than the second quarter of 2024. Neither company however has disclosed the terms of the deal.

GSAT-20 is a 'demand-driven' communications satellite that will be operated solely by New Space India Ltd. The spacecraft is expected to provide high-throughput connectivity using the Ka-band at speeds of up to forty-eight gigabits per second.

The spacecraft is believed to weigh roughly 4,700 kilograms which is 700 kilograms heavier than India's LVM3 rocket can lift to orbit. This is likely why Falcon 9 was chosen to launch the spacecraft.

New Space India Ltd is part of the Indian Space Research Organization and is responsible for satellite and commercial launch services.

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

It's currently unclear when the third flight test of Starship-Super Heavy will occur with most observers of Starbase believing it will happen in late January or early February. SpaceX also doesn't have a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration to launch the vehicle as the mishap investigation into the last flight is still ongoing.

SpaceX is expected to launch another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit atop of its Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40, in Florida. The booster for this mission is currently unknown but will likely land on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas'.

January 8th - Vulcan-Centaur for Cert-1

Vulcan-Centaur is currently expected to lift off from Space Launch Complex 41, in Cape Canaveral, on the 8th of January no earlier than 07:18 am Coordinated Universal Time for the Cert-1 mission. This flight is carrying the Astrobotic Peregrine lunar lander for Astrobotic's first lunar landing mission.

Another Falcon 9 is expected to launch another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California. The booster for this mission is currently unknown but will likely land on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You'.

January 9th - Long March 2C with Einstein Probe

A Long March 2C is expected to launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center carrying the Einstein Probe to low Earth orbit. The spacecraft is a collaboration between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the European Space Agency.

January 10th - Kinetica 1 with a to-be-announced payload

A Kinetica 1 rocket is expected to launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center carrying a currently unknown payload.

January 11th - Gravity-1 for its maiden flight

OrienSpace is expected to launch its Gravity-1 rocket for its maiden flight from a sea launch platform departing from the Haiyang 'Spaceport'. Any payload is currently unknown.

January 11th - H-IIA with IGS Optical 8

A H-IIA rocket is expected to launch from the Tanegashima Space Center carrying the IGS Optical 8 spacecraft to a sun-synchronous orbit. IGS Optical 8 spacecraft is an optical reconnaissance satellite operated by the Japanese military.

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