Weekly Dose of Space (31/3-6/4)

Weekly Dose of Space (31/3-6/4)


Welcome back to Weekly Dose of Space! Last week saw five launches worldwide, with three being from SpaceX. This week saw NASA select three companies for lunar rovers for Artemis missions and another country joins the International Lunar Research Station. As always, we'll also look ahead to the launch schedule worldwide for next week too.

SpaceX

Work at Starbase this week started with the removal of thermal protection tiles from the nose of Ship 29, this may be from some data gathered from flight three about the performance of the tiles. Work continued on the tiles into the morning of the 2nd when some tiles were added back onto the nose. The 2nd also saw the Orbital Launch Mount do what is believed to be a test of one of its vents. On the 3rd, teams were once again spotted working on the nose tiles of Ship 29.

Late at night on the 3rd, Booster 11 was rolled out to the launch site before being parked next to the Orbital Launch Mount. Not long after arrival, Booster 11 was moved into the 'chopsticks' and lifted onto the launch mount in the early hours of the 4th. Also on the 4th, Ship 29 was moved outside which revealed that large number of heat tiles were being replaced along the vehicle. Early on the 5th of April, scaffolding was removed from the Orbital Launch Mount along with a crew access platform ahead of a static fire.

The 5th saw Booster 11 come to lift and perform what was believed to be a thirty-three engine static fire for over five seconds. SpaceX did not share how many engines lit or the duration.

Booster 11 performing a static fire at Starbase. ©SpaceX
Booster 11 performing a static fire at Starbase. ©SpaceX

Launches This Week

March 31st - Soyuz 2.1b with Resures-P No. 4

A Soyuz 2.1b launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome carrying a Resurs-P to a sun-synchronus orbit. The satellite is believed to be a commercial Earth observation satellite.

SpaceX started its launches for the week from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California, with twenty-two Starlink satellites being placed into low Earth orbit by Falcon 9. The booster for this mission was B1071 making its fifteenth flight and landing successfully on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You' downrange.

Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-4E for Starlink Group 7-18. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-4E for Starlink Group 7-18. ©SpaceX

April 2nd - Long March 2D with Yaogan-42A

China launched a Long March 2D from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center carrying the Yaogan-42A satellite into low Earth orbit. Yaogan-42A is a remote-sensing satellite intended to help with land surveying, disaster prevention, and monitoring of the Earth below.

Liftoff of the Long March 2D Y102 via 我们的太 on Weibo
Liftoff of the Long March 2D Y102 via 我们的太 on Weibo

Another twenty-three Starlink satellites were launched, this time from Space Launch Complex 40, in Florida. The booster for this mission was B1069 making its fourteenth flight and successfully landing downrange on the drone ship 'A Shortfall Of Gravitas'.

Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-40 for Starlink Group 6-47. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-40 for Starlink Group 6-47. ©SpaceX

SpaceX launched another twenty-one Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 4E. The booster for this mission was B1081 making its sixth flight and landed on the drone ship 'Of Course I Still Love You' downrange successfully.

Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-4E for Starlink Group 8-1. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from SLC-4E for Starlink Group 8-1. ©SpaceX

In Other Space News

Thailand joins the ILRS

Officials from China and Thailand inspecting models of Chang'e 5 and Tianwen 1 missions. ©China National Space Administration
Officials from China and Thailand inspecting models of Chang'e 5 and Tianwen 1 missions. ©China National Space Administration

Announced on the 5th of April, China And Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in exploration and peaceful use of outer space as well as a memorandum of understanding on cooperation with the International Lunar Research Station.

According to the memorandum of understanding, China and Thailand will establish a joint committee and a joint working group to plan and implement joint space projects, scientific exchange projects, and personnel training plans, exchange data and information, and joint organize symposiums and scientific workshops to strengthen cooperation between the two countries.

NASA selects Artemis rover providers

A render of NASA’s Lunar Terrain Vehicle. ©NASA
A render of NASA’s Lunar Terrain Vehicle. ©NASA

On the 3rd of Apri, NASA announced that it had selected Intuitive Machines, Lunar Outpost, and Venturi Astrolab to develop a lunar terrain vehicle. The agency seeks to leverage its existing expertise in developing and operating rovers to build commercial capabilities that support scientific discovery and long-term human exploration of the Moon.

NASA intends to begin using a commercial lunar terrain vehicle with crew during the Artemis V mission. Between Artemis missions, the lunar terrain vehicle will operate remotely to support NASA’s scientific objectives as needed. Jacob Bleacher, Chief Exploration Scientist in the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, said the following about the usage of the lunar vehicles:

“We will use the LTV to travel to locations we might not otherwise be able to reach on foot, increasing our ability to explore and make new scientific discoveries,” – “With the Artemis crewed missions, and during remote operations when there is not a crew on the surface, we are enabling science and discovery on the Moon year around.”

Blue Origin announces NS-25 passengers

The passengers of the NS-25 mission. ©Blue Origin
The passengers of the NS-25 mission. ©Blue Origin

Blue Origin announced on the 4th of April who would fly aboard New Shepard's twenty-fifth mission. The crew are as follows:

  • Ed Dwight: Previously served in the U.S. Air Force and was chosen in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy to enter training at the Aerospace Research Pilot School of the U.S. Air Force. In 1963, he was recommended for the NASA Astronaut Crops but never flew.
  • Mason Angel: Is the founder of Industrious Ventures and hoping to use the flight to inspire children and advance partnerships with nonprofits focused on STEM in early education.
  • Sylvain Chiron: Is the founder of the Brasserie Mont Blanc having previously served in the French military.
  • Kenneth Hess: Is a software engineer and entrepreneur who shaped today's technology-based family history industry when he developed the Family Tree Maker product, which was acquired by Ancestry in 2003. Ken also founded Science Buddies which is a nonprofit created to level the playing field and improve STEM literacy by inspiring students through free projects in all areas of science, including space exploration.
  • Carol Schaller: Has traveled to twenty-five countries worldwide, including Mount Everest Base Camp and the South Pole. Traveling to the edge of space will fulfill a lifelong dream.
  • Gopi Thotakura: Is a pilot and aviator who co-founded Preserve Life Corp located near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Gopi is also a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. 

The flight date has not yet been announced by Blue Origin, but is expected to be soon.

Australia’s first commercial orbital spaceport is ready to go

Aerial view of the Bowen Spaceport ©Gilmour Space Technologies

Australia is one step closer to bringing orbital launches back to the continent for the first time since the 70s. On the fourth of April, Bowen orbital spaceport, owned and operated by Gilmour Space Technologies, opened for business! Gilmour expects to see the first launch from this facility, sometime in the coming weeks. One of Gilmour’s “Eris” rockets is already at the facility, fully assembled and ready to go!

The Bowen spaceport is located in North Queensland and is capable of launching payloads to various low to mid-equatorial orbits, ranging in inclination from 20 to 65 degrees. If you want a full article on this matter, click this link.

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

SpaceX believes that they can launch the fourth flight of Starship-Super Heavy next month. So far both Ship 29 and Booster 11 have performed the necessary static fires for flight, it's believed that a wet dress rehearsal of the countdown will take place before flight. However, SpaceX needs to complete the mishap investigation into the previous flight with the Federal Aviation Administration.

April 8th - Falcon 9 with Bandwagon-1

SpaceX is expected to launch its first Bandwagon rideshare mission atop of its Falcon 9 rocket. The launch is expected to occur from Launch Complex 39A with the booster landing at Landing Zone 1.

April 9th - Angara A5 for a test flight

Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center is believed to be launching its Angara A5 rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome for a test flight, the payload will be a mass simulator.

April 9th - Delta IV Heavy with NROL-70

United Launch Alliance is expected to launch a classified satellite to an unknown orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office. This will also be the final flight of the Delta IV Heavy ever. The launch is expected to occur from Space Launch Complex 37B, in Florida.

SpaceX is believed to be targeting the 10th to launch yet another batch of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. The launch is expected to occur from Space Launch Complex 40.

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