Weekly Dose of Space (4/2-10/2)

Weekly Dose of Space (4/2-10/2)


Welcome to Weekly Dose of Space and happy Lunar New Year! This week saw three launches to orbit and an abundance of human spaceflight events, SpaceX also hasn't slowed down for its next Starship-Super Heavy flight. We'll also look ahead to the busy launch schedule worldwide you can expect next week.

SpaceX

SpaceX as always has continued work towards the third flight of its Starship-Super Heavy vehicle as well as assembling hardware for flights after that. At the start of the week Booster 13 was brought to full height, minus its hot-staging ring, and a test of the booster's quick disconnect arm's hood was spotted. On the 6th, Ship 28 was seen having work done to its tiles towards the top of the vehicle.

A few days later, on the 8th, a series of tests happened at the orbital launch mount which were likely purge tests of its quick disconnect systems. Also on the 8th Booster 10 finally headed back to the launch site, being transported on one of the self-propelled modular transporters.

Booster 10 leaving during its move to the launch site. ©SpaceX
Booster 10 leaving during its move to the launch site. ©SpaceX

In the early hours of the 9th, Booster 10 was lifted onto the orbital launch mount. Ship 28 was also spotted being prepared for its return to the launch site not long after Booster 10's lift. In early on the 10th, Ship 28 was moved next to the launch tower and as of writing is waiting to be lifted atop of Booster 10.

Ship 28 heading towards the launch site. ©SpaceX
Ship 28 heading towards the launch site. ©SpaceX

Launches This Week

February 8th - Falcon 9 with PACE

Starting the week on the 8th of February, a SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 carrying NASA's PACE spacecraft to a sun-synchronous orbit. The booster for this mission was B1081 making its fourth flight and landed back at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral.

PACE, or Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem mission, is a NASA mission to advance information for assessing the condition of the ocean and atmosphere. You can read more about PACE here.

B1081 landing at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral. ©SpaceX
B1081 landing at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral. ©SpaceX

February 9th - Soyuz 2.1v with Kosmos 2575

A Soyuz 2.1v lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome carrying the Kosmos 2575 satellite to a sun-synchronous orbit. Not much is known about the satellite other than it is believed to be for military purposes.

A Soyuz 2.1v lifting off in late December of 2023. Via RussianSpaceWeb
A Soyuz 2.1v lifting off in late December of 2023. Via RussianSpaceWeb

SpaceX launched twenty-two more Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit atop of its Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E, in California. The booster for the mission was B1071 making its fourteenth flight and landing downrange on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You".

Falcon 9 during first-stage flight for the Starlink Group 7-13 mission. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 during first-stage flight for the Starlink Group 7-13 mission. ©SpaceX

In Other Space News

Axiom 3 crew returns from space

The crew of Axiom-3 inside the International Space Station (from left to right): Marcus Wandt, Michael López-Alegría, Alper Gezeravcı, and Walter Villadei. ©Axiom Space
The crew of Axiom-3 inside the International Space Station (from left to right): Marcus Wandt, Michael López-Alegría, Alper Gezeravcı, and Walter Villadei. ©Axiom Space

The Axiom-3 crew left the International Space Station on Wednesday the 7th of February and splashed down off the coast of Florida aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on Friday the 9th of February.

The crew spent approximately eighteen days aboard the International Space Station performing a believed thirty science experiments and fifty outreach activities.

Axiom Space's Chief Executive Officer, Michael Suffredini, commented on the mission saying:

“The successful return of our Ax-3 astronauts signifies more than just the completion of a human spaceflight mission; it marks a pivotal moment in commercial space exploration and significant milestone for Europe’s pursuits in low-Earth orbit,” – “Axiom Space’s first three commercial missions to the ISS are a testament to international advancement in space, with diverse crews representing eight nations, as well as — for the first time on Ax-3 — the European Space Agency. The success of these missions is an important step along our journey toward Axiom Station, underscoring our continuous efforts to expand access to low-Earth orbit.”

Shenzhou 17 crew celebrates Lunar New Year from space!

The Shenzhou 17 crew aboard the Tiangong Space Station (from left to right): Jiang Xinlin, Tang Hongbo, and Tang Shengjie. ©CMSA
The Shenzhou 17 crew aboard the Tiangong Space Station (from left to right): Jiang Xinlin, Tang Hongbo, and Tang Shengjie. ©CMSA

The Shenzhou 17 have begun celebrating the Lunar New Year aboard China's Tiangong Space Station. This year the celebrations are happening from the 2nd of February to the 24th, with the largest celebrations happening on the 10th. 2024 is the Year of the Loong, called Dragon in the Western world.

The Tianzhou 7 spacecraft, which docked to the station in mid-January, delivered decorations and gifts to the crew onboard for the Lunar New Year, as well as supplies needed to stay on the station. The three crew also commented on the occasion saying:

"We have a full and happy Chinese Lunar New Year in space" - Tang Hongbo.
"It is a precious life experience for me to spend the Lunar New Year in space for the first time." - Tang Shengjie.
Jiang Xinlin the country, China, "vigorous and prosperous," and "good luck and good health" of all ethnic groups.

The Shenzhou 17 is expected to return to Earth in May after Shenzhou 18 arrives. The crew of the mission are Commander Tang Hongbo, Operator Tang Shengjie, and System Operator Jiang Xinlin.

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

SpaceX still remains confident about a February launch for Starship-Super Heavy, likely towards the end of the month. It's believed Ship 28 and Super Heavy Booster 10 have completed almost all of their testing campaigns. Currently, SpaceX is still waiting on regulatory approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

February 14th - Falcon 9 with Nova-C IM-1

SpaceX is expected to launch Intuitive Machines' first lunar landing mission atop of its Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A. The lander will be delivered to a trans-lunar trajectory and the booster for the mission is believed to be landing back at Landing Zone 1.

The Nova-C IM-1 mission is the second mission of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, the first was Astrobotic's Peregrine, and is carrying six payloads for the agency.

February 14th - Falcon 9 with USSF-124

SpaceX is also expected to launch the USSF-124 mission a few hours later to deliver two satellites to low Earth orbit. The satellites are believed to be for the 'Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor' mission. One satellites is built by Northrop Grumman with the other being built by L3Harris.

February 15th - H3 with VEP-4, CE-SAT-1E, and TIRSAT

Japan's H3 rocket is expected to make its second test flight from the Tanegashima Space Center. The rocket is expected to be carrying three satellites, VEP-4, CE-SAT-1E, and TIRSAT, to a sun-synchronous orbit.

February 15th - Soyuz 2.1a with Progress MS-26

A Soyuz 2.1a is expected to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome carrying the MS-26 spacecraft to low Earth orbit where it will attempt to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station.

February 17th - GSLV Mk II with INSAT-3DS

India is expected to launch the INSAT-3DS satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit atop of its GSLV Mk II rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Center. The satellite is believed to be a weather satellite built by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

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