Weekly Dose of Space (5/11-11/11)

Weekly Dose of Space (5/11-11/11)


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 its week at Starbase by registering a NOTAM, Notice to Airmen, for Mexican airspace from November 13th to November 18th for what is likely Starship IFT-2. The following day a Navigational Hazard Warning was posted for the Gulf of Mexico around Starbase, also running from November 13th to November 18th.

November 9th had teams at Starbase being spotted installing the Flight Termination System on Booster 9 and Ship 25. Early in the morning of November 10th, Ship 25 was stacked back on top of Booster 9 for potentially the final time before flight. In the evening of the 11th of November however, Ship 25 was destacked from Booster 9 for unknown reasons.

Launches This Week

SpaceX started the launches for this week with yet more Starlink satellites launched into low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The booster for this mission was booster B1073 making its eleventh flight and landing on the drone ship 'Just Read the Instructions' downrange.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. ©SpaceX

November 9th - Long March 3B/E with ChinaSat 6E

China launched a Long March 3B/E from Xichang Satellite Launch Center carrying ChinaSat 6E to a geostationary transfer orbit. ChinaSat 6E is a communications satellite that will reside at 115.5 degrees east in geostationary orbit and take over ChinaSat 6B's tasks.

The Long March 3B/E lifting off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. ©Chen Haojie/Xinhua
The Long March 3B/E lifting off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. ©Chen Haojie/Xinhua

November 10th - Falcon 9 with CRS-29

Falcon 9 launched SpaceX's 29th commercial resupply service mission to the International Space Station carrying supplies and science payloads bound for the orbiting laboratory. The Cargo Dragon spacecraft for this mission was Cargo Dragon C211 and the booster for this mission was B1081 making its second flight and landing back at Landing Zone 1 in Florida.

Cargo Dragon C211 is carrying about 6,500 pounds, almost 2,950 kilograms, of cargo to the International Space Station where it will remain docked for roughly one month.

Booster B1081 landing at Landing Zone 1 in Florida. ©SpaceX
Booster B1081 landing at Landing Zone 1 in Florida. ©SpaceX

November 11th - Falcon 9 with Transporter 9

SpaceX ended this week's launches with the launch of Transporter 9 from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The booster for this mission was B1071 making its twelfth flight and landing back at Landing Zone 4 in Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Transporter-9 is SpaceX’s ninth dedicated smallsat rideshare mission. There will be 90 payloads on this flight deployed by Falcon 9, including CubeSats, MicroSats, and orbital transfer vehicles carrying an additional 23 spacecraft to be deployed at a later time.

Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E in California. ©SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4E in California. ©SpaceX

In Other Space News

Astra's rocket 3 on its launch pad. ©Astra
Astra's rocket 3 on its launch pad. ©Astra

Astra Founders looking to take company private for $30 million

Astra's founders Chris Kemp, who is currently Astra's chairman and chief executive officer, and Adam London, who is currently Astra's chief technology officer, have offered a proposal to Astra's board of directors to buy all of the company's shares at $1.50 United States dollars each for a total of about $30 million dollars. The price of one share in Astra is currently $1.28 but was $0.74 at the time of the offer to the board.

Chris Kemp and Adam London wrote the following in a letter to Astra's board;

"We believe that Astra’s strategic objectives and business prospects will be best served as a private company. Taking the company private while delivering a meaningful premium to current shareholders allows for the best interests of shareholders as well as the Company, its employees and its customers to be met."

This news comes almost a week after Astra defaulted on one of its loans.

Electron lifting off for the 'There And Back Again' mission. ©Rocket Lab
Electron lifting off for the 'There And Back Again' mission. ©Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab's Q3 2023 financial update and conference call news

On the 8th of November, Rocket Lab held its Third Quarter 2023 Financial Results Update and Conference Call where they covered the following; the company's accomplishments in the past financial quarter, an update on the anomaly during electrons forty-first launch, Electrons current launch manifest for 2024, updates on Neutron, and general company financial highlights and outlook.

Rocket Lab launched two Electron rockets successfully in Q3. Both rocket stages splashed down in the ocean and were recovered, with one of the missions re-flying a Rutherford engine for the first time. The company successfully delivered eight satellites into orbit during Q3.

The company also gave an update to the investigation into the failure of its forty-first Electron launch. Rocket Lab believes the most likely cause was due to an electrical arc within the rockets stage power supply systems that shorted the battery packs. The company states they will do the following to prevent a similar failure from happening;

"Implemented redundancies include increased fidelity to vacuum testing involving higher-sensitivity instruments at the component and stage level, and a hardware modification to fully enclose and pressurize the power supply system to remove the high voltage system’s Paschen Curve susceptibility."

Rocket Lab currently expects to close the anomaly investigation in the coming weeks and return Electron to flight no earlier than the 28th of November.

Rocket Lab also revealed that it currently plans to launch Electron twenty-two times in the 2024 financial year! There are five launches planned for Q1 2024 with three planned recoveries of the first stage, Q2 2024 has six launches planned with two recoveries planned for the first stage, Q3 has the least launches during the year with three launches with one first stage recovery planned and one HASTE mission, and ending out the year in Q4 2024 with eight launches with one HASTE mission and three recoveries of the first stage.

Rocket Lab is also continuing to make major milestones with its upcoming Neutron rocket recently. The company has completed its second stage structural and cryogenic test campaigns with the next test tanks currently being built for testing. The Archimedes engine also completed a combustion test achieving target pressures using liquid methane and liquid oxygen. The company is also currently producing full-scale Archimedes hardware for upcoming propulsion tests.

Rocket Lab reported a revenue of $68 million in Q3 2023, which is a nine percent increase over Q2 2023, and a backlog of $582 million for launch and space systems with the company expecting to clear fifty-seven percent of the backlog with twelve months. The company currently expects a Q4 2023 revenue of at least $65 million and at most $69 million with almost two-thirds of the revenue coming from space systems.

Frank Borman seen being suited for launch in December 1968. ©NASA

Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman dies at 95

On the 7th of November Apollo and Gemini astronaut Frank Borman passed away at the age of 95. Frank Borman first flew to space on Gemini 7 for fourteen days where their spacecraft was the passive rendezvous target for Gemini 6A. Borman also served as the commander of Apollo 8 which was the first crewed mission to orbit the Moon.

NASA released the following in a statement following Borman's death;

“Today we remember one of NASA’s best. Astronaut Frank Borman was a true American hero. Among his many accomplishments, he served as the commander of the Apollo 8 mission, humanity’s first mission around the Moon in 1968. His lifelong love for aviation and exploration was only surpassed by his love for his wife Susan. Frank began his career as an officer with the U.S. Air Force. His love of flying proved essential through his positions as a fighter pilot, operational pilot, test pilot, and assistant professor. His exceptional experience and expertise led him to be chosen by NASA to join the second group of astronauts. In addition to his critical role as commander of the Apollo 8 mission, he is a veteran of Gemini 7, spending 14 days in low-Earth orbit and conducting the first rendezvous in space, coming within a few feet of the Gemini 6 spacecraft." – "Frank knew the power exploration held in uniting humanity when he said, ‘Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.’ His service to NASA and our nation will undoubtedly fuel the Artemis Generation to reach new cosmic shores.”

What to Expect Next Week

Starbase

SpaceX currently has NOTAMs and road closures running from November 13th to November 18th ahead of a potential second launch of Starship for IFT-2. Due to unfavorable weather if Starship launches soon it is expected to be no earlier than November 17th for ITF-2.

November 12th - Falcon 9 with O3b mPower 5 & 6

SpaceX is expected to launch O3b mPower 5 & 6 to medium Earth orbit atop of a Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The booster is expected to be B1076 making its ninth flight and landing on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 will potentially launch Starlink Group 6-28 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The booster and drone ship for this mission is currently unknown.

November 17th - Starship-Super Heavy for IFT-2

SpaceX is ready to launch Starship-Super Heavy for its second integrated flight test pending final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. If the vehicle makes it to stage separation the new 'hot-staging' method will be tested in flight for the launch vehicle. If both vehicles survive staging the Booster is expected to land in the ocean near Starbase after almost seven minutes in flight with the Ship expected to land roughly one-hundred kilometers from Hawaii after re-entry.

The November 17th launch date still isn't certain as the Federal Aviation Administration is yet to issue a launch license.

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