Virgin Orbit Traces Cause Of Launcherone Engine Failure To Propellant Line

An engine failure that cut short the first test flight of Virgin Orbit’s air-dropped LauncherOne rocket in May was caused by a faulty propellant feed line, the company’s CEO said this week.

Virgin Orbit’s first orbital launch attempt May 25 ended seconds after the rocket’s release from a Boeing 747 carrier jet over the Pacific Ocean. Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit’s CEO, said Wednesday that engineers traced the cause of the premature shutdown of the first stage’s engine to a break in a propellant feed line.

The 70-foot-long (21-meter) LauncherOne rocket is designed to place small satellites into orbit. The first test flight of the air-launched rocket in May was the culmination of years of development, including numerous engine tests and test flights of the modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Progress Supply Ship Docks With Space Station After Last-Minute Misalignment

Completing a fast-track, three-hour pursuit of the International Space Station, a Russian Progress supply ship overcame a last-minute misalignment and autonomously linked up with with orbiting research complex Thursday with nearly three tons of fuel, food and supplies.

The Soyuz-2.1a rocket took off from pad 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 10:26:21 a.m. EDT (1426:21 GMT; 7:26 p.m. Baikonur time) with the Progress MS-15 cargo ship.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

NASA Safety Panel Has Lingering Doubts About Boeing Starliner Quality Control

Members of a NASA safety panel expressed continued concern about quality issues with Boeing’s commercial crew spacecraft while cautiously supporting SpaceX’s plans to fly reused spacecraft on future crewed missions.

During a July 23 teleconference by the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, members discussed several reviews of issues with the uncrewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft last December. NASA announced July 7 it had completed its reviews of that Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission, which resulted in 80 recommendations specific to the flight and several more from a separate “high-visibility close call” review carried out earlier this year by NASA.

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA’s Mars Rover Loaded Up With Nuclear Power Ahead Of Next Week’s Launch

NASA’s Perseverance rover destined for Mars next week has completed another step in preparation for launch – installation, and activation of its nuclear power source.

“The #MarsPerseverance MMRTG [multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator] is installed and doing well. This Red Planet dune buggy is fueled and ready to go!” wrote Tory Bruno, CEO of launch provider ULA, via Twitter on Wednesday. He further clarified what this process means in response to a question about the power source. “RTGs [radioisotope thermoelectric generators] are ‘activated’ at the moment of assembly because the radio source continuously generates heat which solid state thermoelectric devices turn into voltage.”

Read more at: Teslarati

Plutonium Power Source Installed On NASA’s Next Mars Rover

The nuclear power generator for NASA’s Perseverance rover has been installed on the spacecraft atop an Atlas 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral, and mission managers gave a green light Wednesday to continue preparations for the rover’s July 30 launch toward Mars.

The rover’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, or MMRTG, was transferred from a preparation building to the Atlas 5 rocket’s Vertical Integration Facility, and was hoisted by crane onto a work platform near the top of the 197-foot-tall (60-meter) launcher.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

British Government Finalizing Launch Regulations

The British government expects to soon release a comprehensive set of regulations that will enable companies to perform commercial launches from spaceports in the country.

During a July 22 webinar by the U.K. Space Agency, part of series of virtual events held in place of the Farnborough International Airshow, government officials said they were finalizing an estimated 900 pages of regulations that will cover licensing and oversight of launch vehicles and launch sites.

Read more at: Spacenews

Before 2 Astronauts Can Fly Home To Earth On Spacex’s Crew Dragon Capsule, NASA Says They’ll Need To Scan The Ship’s Plasma-Blocking Belly For Damage

After living and working in space for more than two months, the NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are due back to planet Earth on August 2.But before the astronauts can return, their Crew Dragon spaceship — designed, built, and launched by SpaceX with most of the $3.14 billion NASA awarded to SpaceX through the agency’s Commercial Crew Program — must pass a crucial inspection.

Read more at: Business Insider

Progress MS-15 Cargo Ship Takes ‘Express Lane’ To ISS

The Russian Progress MS-15 cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station in a reported record time to deliver supplies and experiments to the Expedition 63 crew, despite a last-second misalignment.

Launching atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 14:26 UTC July 23, 2020, the Progress MS-15 spacecraft rendezvoused with the orbiting outpost and docked with the Pirs module just 3 hours, 18 minutes and 31 seconds later at 17:45 UTC.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider


SpaceX To Revive Polar Launch Trajectory From Florida, A First In 60 Years

SpaceX is set to make history by returning southern trajectory polar corridor launches to Florida’s Space Coast with the launch of the Argentine SAOCOM-1B radar observation satellite later this month. Tentatively set to get off the ground no earlier than Saturday, July 25 the SAOCOM-1B mission has suffered delays ranging from hardware processing and integration to international launch team travel restrictions as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Read more at: Teslarati

Terminating Space Debris: Spaceflight, Inc. Chooses Tethers Unlimited, Inc.’s Terminator Tape™ for Deorbit of Orbit Transfer Vehicle

Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) is pleased to announce that
Spaceflight Inc. has selected TUI’s NanoSat Terminator Tape Deorbit System for end-of life disposal of its new Sherpa-FX orbit transfer vehicle. As part of an upcoming mission, Spaceflight will test the deorbit process with the Terminator Tape. When the orbit transfer vehicle’s mission is completed, a timer release system will deploy the Terminator Tape to rapidly deorbit the Sherpa-FX vehicle so that it does not contribute to the growth of the space debris problem.

“When Tethers was founded in 1994, its main focus was to solve the problem of space debris so that NASA, the DoD and commercial space enterprises could continue to safely operate in Earth orbit, “says Dr. Rob Hoyt, TUI’s President.

Read more at: Tethers

Mission Extension Vehicles Validate New Satellite Lifeline in Orbit

Until February 2020, when a satellite on orbit ran out of propellant, that was the end of its life.  Most major communications and military satellites are designed with prolonged lifetimes and carry enough fuel for a 15 year mission.   

But the struggle for some satellite operators has been that at the end of that 15 year period, satellites running out of fuel are still working perfectly well in every other regard.  Therefore, perfectly good satellites have to be decommissioned.  But not anymore.

Read more at: NASA spaceflight

Safety Panel Laments Lack of Congressional Action on Space Traffic Management

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) expressed dismay at the delay in congressional action on designating an agency to take responsibility for civil space traffic management (STM).  Citing the growing dangers from space debris to the International Space Station and other NASA activities, the panel warned “the nation cannot wait any longer.”

Unlike many advisory committees, ASAP reports to Congress as well as NASA.  It was created by Congress following the fatal Apollo 1 fire that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online


Help Japanese Space Industry Grow By Promoting Private Development

The age of space development has shifted from a state-led era to one in which private companies play a leading role. It is important for Japan to utilize the private sector to keep pace with global trends.

The government has compiled the Basic Plan for Space Policy as a guideline for future space policy. Currently, the Japanese space industry is an about ¥1 trillion market, but the government plans to double that figure by the early 2030s.

Read more at: Japan-news

Astra Aiming For 1st Orbital Launch In Early August

The spaceflight startup Astra plans to reach orbit for the first time in early August.

On Monday (July 20), the California-based company announced that its 38-foot-tall (11.6 meters) Rocket 3.1 is scheduled to launch from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska’s Kodiak Island during a six-day window that opens Aug. 2.

The rocket journeyed to Kodiak last week after performing two static-fire tests at Astra’s California facilities, company representatives said on Twitter. (Static fires test a rocket’s engines while the vehicle is tethered to the ground.)

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