After months of waiting, SpaceX made its second attempt at an orbital flight this past Saturday (November 18th). During their previous attempt, which occurred back in April, a fully-stacked Starship (SN24) and Super Heavy (BN7) prototypes managed to make it off the landing pad and reach an altitude of about 40 km (25 miles) above sea level. Unfortunately, the SN24 failed to separate from the BN7 booster a few minutes into the flight, causing the vehicle to fall into an uncontrolled tumble and forcing the ground teams to detonate the onboard charges.
Things went better this time as the SN25 and BN9 prototypes took off at about 7:00 AM local time (8:00 AM EDT; 05:00 AM PDT) from the Starbase launch complex. The SN25 successfully separated from its booster two minutes and fifty seconds later – at an altitude of 70 km (43 mi) – and reached an altitude of about 148 kilometers (92 miles), just shy of SpaceX’s goal of 150 km (~93 mi). However, the booster stage was lost about 30 seconds after separation, exploding over the Gulf of Mexico. The SN25 also exploded about eight minutes into the flight, reportedly because its flight termination system was activated.
Private space company, Rocket Lab, launched its 40th Electron mission on their lauded Electron rocket, dubbed “We Love The Nightlife”, on August 24th at 11:45am New Zealand Standard Time (August 23rd at 7:45pm EST), which also marks the 7th launch of 2023, all successful. The purpose of the mission was to deliver the next-generation Acadia satellite for Capella Space to a circular orbit above the Earth at 640 km (400 miles), which was executed flawlessly. Acadia is part of Capella’s synthetic aperture radar (SAR) constellation and is the first of four Acadia satellites that Rocket is currently contracted to launch for Capella.
During the recent ViaSat-3 launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket, SpaceX released the protective spacecraft fairing at the highest altitude ever attempted. Therefore, the fairing reached incredible speeds during its fiery re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere. Fortunately, there was a camera on board so we could watch. At one point, the one half of the fairing was traveling 15 times faster than the speed of sound, releasing a trail of plasma in its wake as it returned to Earth.
It was an exciting time when, two weeks ago, SpaceX got the clearance it needed to conduct its first orbital flight test with the Starshipand Super Heavy launch system. After years of waiting, SN flight tests, static fire tests, and stacking and unstacking, the long-awaited test of the SN24 Starship and BN7 Booster prototype was on! For this flight, SpaceX hoped to achieve an altitude of at least 150 km (90 mi) above sea level, crossing the 100 km (62 mi) threshold that officially marks the boundary of “space” (aka. the Karman Line) and making a partial transit around the world before splashing down off the coast of Hawaii.
Unfortunately, things began to go awry a few minutes into the flight as the Starship prototype failed to separate from the booster, sending the rocket into a spin that ended in an explosion. While Musk and SpaceX issued statements that the test was largely successful and lots of valuable data was obtained, residents and environmental researchers claim the explosion caused damage to houses in the area and the local environment. In response, the FAA has launched a “mishap investigation,” temporarily grounding the Starship until the explosion’s impact can be assessed.
It’s been a long road, but it looks as though SpaceX may finally be ready for an orbital flight test with the Starship and Super Heavy. After months of waiting, static fire tests, stacking, and restacking, Elon Musk announced on March 16th that SpaceX could be ready to go with the SN24 and BN7 prototypes in “a few weeks,” pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Musk announced via Twitter, saying, “launch timing depends on FAA license approval. Assuming that takes a few weeks, first launch attempt will be near end of third week of April, aka…”
In February 2022, Russian military forces invaded Ukraine as part of what President Vladimir Putin described as a “limited military operation.” This operation quickly turned into a protracted war now in its second year. For Russia, the response from the international community has been anything but favorable, consisting of sanctions, embargoes, and the termination of programs. This has been especially true for Roscosmos, which has had several cooperative agreements canceled and terminated its participation in the International Space Station (ISS).
On March 7th, 2023, Kazakhstan seized control of the Biaterek launch complex at the Baikonur Cosmodrome – Russia’s main launch site since 1955. According to statements by KZ24 News and The Moscow Times, the Kakazh government has impounded Russian assets at the Center for Utilization of Ground-based Space Infrastructure (TsENKI), a subsidiary of Roscosmos. It is also preventing Russian officials from leaving the country or liquidating Roscosmos assets. This incident is another example of how Russia’s space program is suffering collateral damage from the war in Ukraine.
This past week was a mixed bag for Relativity Space and their 3D-printed methane-fueled rocket engine. While the company’s Terran 1 rocket blasted off successfully on Wednesday, March 22, the second stage failed to ignite a few minutes after launch. The rocket coasted to an altitude of about 129 km and then returned to Earth, crashing a few hundred kilometers downrange.
But Relativity Space counted this first launch attempt as a success.
The NASA/SpaceX Crew 6 members are now on their way to the International Space Stations after a spectacular nighttime liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.
At 12:34 am EST, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sent a Dragon spacecraft named Endeavour into orbit. Onboard were NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, along with United Arab Emirates (UAE) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.
NASA just released a new supercut of high-resolution video from the Artemis I launch on November 16, 2022. Much of the footage is from cameras attached to the rocket itself, allowing everyone to ride along from engine ignition to the separation of the Orion capsule as it begins its journey to the Moon.
Getting to space has almost always been a multi-stage process. Those stages typically took the form of different stages of chemical rockets, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Plenty of alternative options have been proposed, and one that NASA has been working on for almost a decade is getting closer to commercialization. The project, known as the Towed-Glider Air Launch System (TGALS), uses three very different stages – a business jet, and glider, and two separate rockets – sort of. But its main advantage means that any airport large enough to host a business jet could also become a spaceport.