Space Stuff and Launch Info

In summary, the SpaceX Dragon launch is upcoming, and it appears to be successful. The article has a lot of good information about the upcoming mission, as well as some interesting observations about the Great Red Spot.
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Figuratively. I worked on the payloads.
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  • #1,123
Couple of interesting launches coming up this week.

March 22, 4:45 a.m. EDT: Rocket Lab will attempt an ocean recovery of their Electron rocket.

March 22, 10 pm - March 23, 1 am EDT: Relativity Space plans another attempt at the maiden launch of their Terran 1 rocket. This would be the first methalox rocket to reach orbit, if successful.
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Borg said:

... previous plans to send female astronauts to space have been scuppered by the lack of spacesuits in their size.
Little perplexed by this statement. Why were they unable to make additional suits in an appropriate size?
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Hakuto-R has entered lunar orbit. The next Japanese mission attempting a soft landing (in about a month).

How many suits do you want to store on the ISS?
But just days before Anne McClain and Christina Koch were due to depart on the walk, Nasa realised they didn't have two spacesuits in the correct size for both women, and McClain had to be replaced by colleague Nick Hague.
Artemis III and IV can launch suits on Starship and both surface crew members will get their own custom suit, no problem there.
Redbelly98 said:
March 22, 4:45 a.m. EDT: Rocket Lab will attempt an ocean recovery of their Electron rocket.
Now March 24
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  • #1,126
A test version of the upper stage of Vulcan failed in a ground test.

Keeping you posted: During Qual testing of Centaur V structural article at MSFC, the hardware experienced an anomaly. This is is why we thoroughly & rigorously exercise every possible condition on the ground before flight. Investigation is underway. Vulcan will fly when complete.
Extreme structural load testing of various worst possible conditions
It's likely the test conditions were beyond the conditions expected for a flight, but it was still an unexpected failure so it could delay the launch of the flight hardware.


SpaceX has launched 21 times so far this year and another mission is scheduled to fly in three hours, which means most likely 22 launches in the first quarter. Not too far behind the pace needed for 100 launches this year.

Here is a graph comparing different years. Since 2020, each year was clearly beating all previous years.
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This is Bizarre:
As described in many news articles including this one, Kazakstan has grounded Roscosmos until Russia pays up $30M in Baikonur Cosmodrome related debt.

Perhaps we need to start a Roscosmos Go-Fund-Me site.

More seriously, I notice that this Cosmodrome is not listed among Kazakstan's World Heritage sites. Nor is it on Kazakstan's "tentative" list.
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  • #1,128
It's only affecting some future rocket plans as far as I understand, normal Soyuz launches are unaffected.

The US doesn't have any spaceflight-related World Heritage Sites either. These seem to focus on older things.

SpaceX's 22nd launch this year was delayed twice, now it's planned for April 1.
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The Artemis II crew has been announced:

Commander Reid Wiseman - previously flew one half-year mission to the ISS in 2014 (Soyuz)
Pilot Victor Glover - previously flew one half-year mission to the ISS in 2020 (first operational Dragon flight)
Mission Specialist 1 Christina Koch - almost a year at the ISS in 2019/2020 (Soyuz)
Mission Specialist 2 Jeremy Hansen - first flight for him (from Canada)

I didn't expect them to include someone without flight experience, but the crew will always stay together so the risk from Hansen getting sick in space is probably limited.
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No Starship on April 10, now no earlier than April 17 (and not expected to fly then, either).
mfb said:
A test version of the upper stage of Vulcan failed in a ground test.
The ULA "anomaly" turned out to be a significant explosion.


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  • #1,132
Four of the largest rockets are currently on their launch pads (Tweet with images):

* Ariane 5 with JUICE, a European mission to Jupiter, launching in 1.5 hours (live coverage)
* Delta IV Heavy with NROL-68, a US military satellite (April xx)
* Falcon Heavy with ViaSat-3 Americas, a communication satellite (April 18)
* Starship/Super Heavy without payload, for its test flight (April 17-x)

SpaceX is now aiming at a flight on April 17, pending regulatory approval. They also created a website.
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Before a Starship launch, we should see a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) issued by the FAA.
It should be issued about a full day before the airspace over Starbase is put under control - so more than a day before a launch.

The FAA TFR's are posted at

If you visit that web page, see near the top of that page that there are dropdown menus for "Center", "State", and "Type". The center will be "Houston", the State will be "Texas" and the "Type" will be "Space Operations". Suggest you select "Space Operations", then click the word "GO".

Currently, only one is listed for the Brownsville area - for activity on March 31st.
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The beach will be closed on Monday April 17 for "spaceflight activities", with April 18 and 19 as backup dates.

Tory Bruno (CEO of ULA) shared a better video of the "anomaly" on Twitter. A hydrogen leak in a closed volume, hydrogen accumulated and ignited:

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  • #1,135
TFR for SpaceX "Space Operations"
For Monday, April 17, 2023 1200-1505UTC (8:00-11:05am local time)


Issue Date :​
April 14, 2023 at 1044 UTC
Location :​
Brownsville, Texas
Beginning Date and Time :​
April 17, 2023 at 1200 UTC
Ending Date and Time :​
April 17, 2023 at 1505 UTC
Reason for NOTAM :​
Space Operations Area
Type :​
Space Operations
Replaced NOTAM(s) :​
Pilots May Contact :​
Houston (ZHU) ARTCC, 281-230-5560
  • #1,136
mfb said:
Tory Bruno (CEO of ULA) shared a better video of the "anomaly" on Twitter. A hydrogen leak in a closed volume, hydrogen accumulated and ignited:

This explosion was on March 29.
You can see flames cooking the frame as the video starts - well before the explosion.
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  • #1,138
Interesting Tweets from Eric Berger:
Quite obviously this [launch license on Thursday] did not happen. However, generally, there remains confidence that a license is forthcoming for SpaceX when it is needed—i.e. before 7 am CT on Monday morning. A license could be issued any time, any day, including weekends.

SpaceX could literally launch within minutes of receiving a launch license from the FAA. Every indication from the company and FAA (i.e. road closures, flight restrictions) indicate that planning moving toward a Monday morning launch attempt.
SpaceX and the FAA are working together so they'll have an internal target date for that launch license. Looks like it's Monday morning or earlier. Getting a launch license with the rocket already in the fueling process would be a very interesting move.
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SpaceX has now reserved airspace for possible launches on Monday through Friday of this coming week.
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Hakuto-R will try to land on the Moon in a bit over 24 hours. Livestream will be here.
If successful, it will make Japan the fourth country to softly land on the Moon (after the Soviet Union, the US and China, and failed attempts by India and Israel).

Six new missions with landers/rovers are planned to launch later this year.

A Falcon Heavy launch is planned for Wednesday 23:24 UTC. Falcon Heavy will fly fully expendable for the first time to deliver the satellite directly to geostationary orbit - no booster landings.
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mfb said:
Hakuto-R will try to land on the Moon in a bit over 24 hours.
Lost signal shortly before the planned landing.
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mfb said:
Lost signal shortly before the planned landing.
It seemed weird that they pre-announced that they would lose the comm signal before the landing, and should re-acquire it shortly after landing. Why would they anticipate losing the signal right before landing? There were obviously no plasma effects like in Earth re-entry. I don't think I've heard of an "anticipated comms blackout" during the last few meters of landing on the Moon" before...
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  • #1,148
Fairing reentry video from the Falcon Heavy launch. Fastest and hottest reentry so far as all boosters were expended:

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  • #1,149
Vast, a company of a cryptocurrency billionaire, plans to build a commercial space station. We'll see how well that works, but at least they have funding. They now have launch contracts, too: One Falcon 9 flight to launch a first station module and a Falcon 9 / Dragon flight to visit it. No earlier than August 2025 and with delays basically guaranteed, but it's the first company with a launch contract.

Axiom-2, the second fully commercial mission to the ISS, is now scheduled to launch May 21.
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Falcon rockets have achieved 200 successful missions in a row. This streak includes all 6 Falcon Heavy launches and all 166 launches of the only operational Falcon 9 version (Block 5), plus 28 launches of older Falcon 9 versions.
If we only consider rocket versions SpaceX uses today: They have made 171 flights and never failed. This is 5+166 as the first FH flight used older hardware.

As a related milestone, we can expect 200 consecutive Falcon 9 successes in June.
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NASA has selected a company to land astronauts on the Moon with Artemis V. They'll announce the winner on Friday.
Blue Origin and Dynetics both got significant funding for earlier studies. They lost against SpaceX in the original award (Starship will land as part of Artemis III and IV), but that makes them leading candidates for the second round. SpaceX was excluded from this so NASA gets a second provider.Edit: ULA is preparing for a static fire of Vulcan Centaur. No launch date yet:
Engineers have isolated a small region on that dome where they believe the leak came from, as well as the likely ignition source. “I’m pretty confident that we’re going to find the leak, and once we find the leak we’ll know if we have to take corrective action or not on the flight vehicle,” he said.

If ULA doesn’t need to modify the Centaur, that would allow the Cert-1 launch to take place in early summer, he said. “If we do, it could take longer, but I don’t expect it to get out of the year.”
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  • #1,152
Blue Origin (+partners) has gotten the contract for the second Moon lander. Dynetics was second and did not get selected. Nothing too surprising. With $3.4 billion from NASA it is just slightly more expensive than the SpaceX contract for Artemis III.
More details.
Here is a render:

Edit: Some more discussion here:

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  • #1,153
Successful launch of Axiom-2, currently approaching the ISS and docking should occur in around 15 minutes. This is the 10th crewed mission of Dragon 2 and the 9th to the ISS.

For the first time, the booster returned to the launch site after a crewed flight. This is likely a result of SpaceX optimizing the rocket performance further. We have first seen this from an extra Starlink satellite they managed to add to each batch.
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Virgin Orbit, the company operating the air-launched LauncherOne, is dead. After their latest failed launch they didn't find enough investors to keep going. Some hardware has been sold, looks like no one was interested in the rocket itself.

Virgin Galactic, the company offering suborbital tourism flights, is back. Their 2021 flight, the first one with several passengers, raised questions about the flight profile and safety and started an FAA investigation. The company took that time to upgrade their vehicle, too. After a low altitude flight last month they are now preparing for a high altitude flight in the early morning of Thursday (US time). No live coverage, unfortunately. The flight will only carry employees of the company.

Other news:
* Remains of Hakuto-R found on the Moon
* In the first quarter of 2023 a total of 290 tonnes were launched to orbit (report). 233 tonnes by SpaceX (80%!), 24 by China, 23 by Russia, 5 by India, 4 by Japan, 1 tonne by the rest of the world.
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  • #1,155
Virgin Galactic's flight was a success.

Accident investigation for Hakuto-R:
During descent it flew over a cliff on the Moon, which caused the radar altimeter to suddenly produce a much larger distance estimate (correctly, of course). The software interpreted that as a broken altimeter and tried to land without it - it significantly underestimated its altitude and flew a touchdown maneuver 5 kilometers above the real surface until it ran out of fuel. This was not caught in simulations because they were only made for the initial landing site that didn't have large cliffs. They changed the landing site later without fully testing it again in simulations.
Video about it

Assuming no delay we might get a new record of 17 people in orbit next week, up from 14 first achieved in 2021:
7 long-term ISS crew
4 ISS visitors (Axiom-2) <- landing May 31 to June 2
3 incoming Tiangong crew <- May 30 launch
3 outgoing Tiangong crew <- they'll wait for the new crew to arrive before leaving

Edit: Launched on time. New record.
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