Hazegrayart Shows how Rocket Lab's Reusable Neutron Rocket Could Work

Credit: Rocket Lab

There’s little doubt that we live in a new Space Age, defined by increasing access, greater competition, and the commercial space industry. The titans of this industry are well known and have even become household names. There are old warhorses like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and United Launch Alliance and fast-rising stars like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, Virgin Galactic, and others. But New Zealand and California-based company Rocket Lab has also made a name for itself in recent years, moving from low-cost expendable rocket launches to reusable rockets.

In particular, their new Neutron Rocket design has been turning some heads since it first debuted in late 2021. The most recent design of this rocket features some very interesting features, which include a new engine, a new shell, and a “Hungry-Hippo” reusable fairing built from advanced carbon composites. Beginning in 2024, Rocket Lab hopes to conduct regular launches with Neutron to service the growing “satellite megaconstellation” market. Thanks to an animator who goes by the handle Hazegrayart, we now have a video of what this might look like.

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Masten Space is Building a Lunar Lander for NASA. Also, They Just Filed for Bankruptcy

Artist's rendering of the Masten XL-1 lander. Credit: Masten Space Systems

If you’re a fan of the commercial space industry (aka. NewSpace), then the name Masten Space Systems is sure to ring a bell. For years, this California-based aerospace company has been developing delivery systems to accommodate payloads to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. This included Xoie, the lander concept that won the $1 million Northrop Grumman Lunar X-Prize in 2009, their Xombie and Xodiac reusable terrestrial landers, and the in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique (FAST) that would allow lunar landers to create their own landing pads.

But perhaps their biggest feat was the Xelene Lunar Lander (XL-1) that they developed in partnership with the NASA Lunar CATALYST program. This lander was one of several robotic systems enlisted by NASA to deliver cargo to the Moon in support of the Artemis Program. This included the Masten-1 mission, which was scheduled to land a payload Moon’s southern polar region in 2023. The company was scheduled to make a second delivery (Masten-2) by 2024, one year before the first Artemis astronauts arrived. But according to a statement issued on July 28th, the company has filed for Chapter 11 and is bankrupt!

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SpaceX Shares an Image of the Super Heavy Booster Bristling With 33 Newly Installed Raptor Engines

Not long ago, SpaceX passed their Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) with the FAA, though many corrective actions were recommended. With this hurdle in its rearview mirror, SpaceX is busy preparing the Starship and Super Heavy prototypes for their orbital test flight. On Saturday (July 2nd), the company posted pictures on its Twitter feed that showed the Starship (SN24) and Super Heavy booster (BN7) outfitted with all the Raptor engines – 33 Raptors for the BN7, 6 for SN24 – that will take them to space.

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Cygnus Boosts the International Space Station for the First Time. NASA Can Now Potentially Keep the Station Aloft Without Russia’s Progress Spacecraft

Cygnus docked to the International Space Station prior to performing an operational reboost. Image via Northrup Grumman.

Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft conducted a successful reboost of the International Space Station over the past weekend, on Saturday, June 25, 2022. The Cygnus NG-17 “Piers Sellers” is the first US-based spacecraft to provide a substantial orbital adjustment to the ISS since the space shuttles retired in 2011. Russia’s Progress cargo spacecraft has been the primary source for station reboosts, attitude control, and debris avoidance maneuvers.

“This reboost of the ISS using Cygnus adds a critical capability to help maintain and support the space station,” said Steve Krein, vice president, civil and commercial space, tactical space systems, Northrop Grumman, in a press release. “It also demonstrates the enormous capability Cygnus offers the ISS and future space exploration efforts.”

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SpaceX is now Constructing the Starship Launch Tower at Cape Canaveral

The Starship and Superheavy fully stacked, standing behind the "Mechazilla" tower at Boca Chica, Texas. Credit: SpaceX

Remember Mechazilla, that tall launch tower at the SpaceX Starbase in Texas that will stack Starships and “catch” spent Super Heavy boosters? SpaceX began constructing an identical launch tower at Cape Canaveral in Florida, where Starships will also be launching from soon. This tower is taking shape alongside SpaceX’s Launch Complex-39A (LC-39A) facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Once complete, the launch tower will stand about 146 meters (~480 ft) in height, making it the second-tallest space-related structure on the East Coast, second to NASA’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

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South Korea is now a Space-Faring Nation With the Orbital Launch of Their Homegrown Nuri Rocket

It looks like South Korea just joined the most exclusive club on the planet! With the launch of its Korea Satellite Launch Vehicle II (KSLV-II aka. the “Nuri” rocket) on June 21st, the country became the latest nation to demonstrate its ability to build and launch its own rockets to space. This was the Nuri’s second launch attempt, which took place eight months after the first attempt failed to deliver a test satellite to orbit back. This time, the rocket managed to reach space and deliver a payload of satellites, making South Korea the eleventh nation to launch from its soil and the seventh to launch commercial satellites.

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Starship is one Step Closer to Flight

Credit: SpaceX

As Tom Petty famously sang, “waiting is the hardest part!” This has surely been the case for Elon Musk and the crews at the SpaceX Starbase near Boca Chica, Texas! As of this year, the company had finished flight tests with the Starship prototypes, built multiple Super Heavy boosters, test-fired the new Raptor 2.0 engines, finished the “Mechazilla” launch tower, and fully stacked the first orbital prototype (SN20 and BN4). They had even finished construction on the new Starship factory at Boca Chica, where Musk’s proposed fleet of reusable spacecraft will subsequently be produced.

Alas, that’s when an interminable delay set in! It all began when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began its environmental review of the Starbase in anticipation of orbital flight testing. This review was originally intended to wrap up in February but was extended until early June. However, on Monday, June 13th, the review officially concluded and declared that the Starbase was good to go for launch testing. With this major hurdle all but cleared, the company is just about ready to conduct its historic orbital flight test and validate the Starship and Super Heavy for commercial use.

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Starship Will Spit out Starlinks Like a Candy Dispenser

SpaceX’s massive and totally-reusable launch vehicle, the Starship and Super Heavy, is getting closer to its first orbital test flight! According to the flight plan filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), this will consist of a fully-stacked spacecraft and booster prototype (SN24 and BN7) taking off from the SpaceX Starbase near Boca Chica, Texas. The booster element will separate at suborbital altitude and land off the coast of Texas, while the Starship will carry on to an altitude of 200 km (125 mi), placing it in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

With this milestone in its rearview, SpaceX will have fully validated its super-heavy launch system and be ready to conduct crewed flights. According to previous statements by Musk, these flights will include payloads and crews destined for the Moon and Mars. During the SpaceX All-Hands Meeting – which took place on Sunday, June 5th – Musk showed how the Starship will also be used to deploy Starlink satellites like a “Pez dispenser.” This announcement and the slideshow presented at the meeting were shared by Musk via Twitter shortly thereafter.

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Axiom’s First Astronauts Return From International Space Station

Dragon splashdown with parachutes
SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean, bringing Axiom Space's first crew of private astronauts back from the International Space Station. (SpaceX Photo)

Axiom Space’s first crew of private astronauts is back on Earth after a 17-day orbital trip that included a week of bonus time on the International Space Station. The mission ended at 1:06 p.m. ET (5:06 p.m. GMT) today when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria was the commander for the homeward trip, accompanied by three investors who each paid Axiom $55 million for their rides: Ohio real-estate and tech entrepreneur Larry Connor, who served as the mission pilot, plus Canada’s Mark Pathy and Israel’s Eytan Stibbe.

“Welcome back to planet Earth,” SpaceX’s mission control operator Sarah Gillis told the crew. “The Axiom-1 mission marks the beginning of a new paradigm for human spaceflight. We hope you enjoyed the extra few days in space.”

Axiom-1 began on April 8 with the Florida launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The trip was originally supposed to last about 10 days, but concerns about weather in the splashdown zone delayed the descent. Because of the way their fares were structured, Axiom’s customers didn’t have to pay extra for the extension.

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Two Rockets at Cape Canaveral

SpaceX’s Axiom-1 is in the foreground on Launch Pad 39A with NASA’s Artemis I in the background on Launch Pad 39B on April 6, 2022. This is the first time two totally different types of rockets and spacecraft designed to carry humans are on the sister pads at the same time—but it won’t be the last as NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida continues to grow as a multi-user spaceport to launch both government and commercial rockets.

An interesting photo-op took place at Launch Complex 39 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. On April 6th, two different rockets were photographed occupying neighboring launch pads – LC 39A and 39B. The former was occupied by the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule (visible in the foreground) that launched the first all-private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 8th – the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1).

The latter was occupied by the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion Spacecraft that will be used to conduct the inaugural launch of the Artemis Program (Artemis I) this summer (seen in the background). This is the first time two different types of rockets and spacecraft occupied LC 39’s sister pads simultaneously. This will become the norm in the future as the KSC continues to grow and becomes a multi-user spaceport that launches government and commercial rockets.

Further Reading: NASA