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October 31, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s string Jay, who has been sending them to me for the past week. Unfortunately, my isp decided to only send me about half my emails during that time, and I only discovered this today. Ugh, modern big corporations. They operate like badly run feudal plantations.

Thus, tonight’s quick links will catch up on some stories we missed from late last week.






  • Blue Origin delivers second BE-4 flightworthy engine to ULA
  • ULA can now install the engines in the first Vulcan rocket and begin testing. Whether it will be ready for its first flight early next year remains unknown. It is even more uncertain whether Blue Origin can ramp up its BE-4 assembly line so as to produce enough of these engines for all of the planned launches of the Vulcan as well as Blue Origin’s own as-yet-unflown New Glenn rocket.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • It appears China is positioning themselves to be *the* astronomy destination for decades to come.

  • David Eastman

    I got a look, but did not get to keep or copy, a document a couple of years ago that was a very good technical insight into why Vulcan has to do the parachute the engines thing instead of a propulsive landing. Falcon 9 is a very unusual design in terms of the stage balance, the first stage burn ends at a much lower altitude and speed than is normally designed for. And while it’s easy to just say “well, they should have designed Vulcan that way”, it had huge impacts on the design of the second stage, which in the case of Falcon has a much higher thrust, mass, etc than Centaur. If they tried to start using the Centaur stage in the same regime as a Falcon upper, they’d basically have to give up on their larger fairing options, a fair amount of potential payload mass, and the really high-energy interplanetary launch profiles where Centaur is undeniably better than Falcon.

    The limited publicly available data suggests that New Glenn will be somewhere in between, with the first stage coming back from a higher and faster point than Falcon 9, possibly even higher and faster than a Falcon Heavy core, and of course SpaceX hasn’t succeeded at that yet.

  • David Ross

    If this is a general-space-news open thread, then so far the Falcon Heavy has done an excellent launch. Main stage on its way up to GEO.

  • David Ross

    To add a larger picture to David Eastman’s comment: I like the idea of having multiple technologies for slowing cargo to a destination planet through an atmosphere. In this case, the cargo uses less propellant.
    As Mr Eastman notes, as a first-stage retrieval process, it’s used comparable loads of propellant to get that far up in the first place, so it’s a wash. I like this idea for other purposes.

  • Edward

    David Eastman wrote: “The limited publicly available data suggests that New Glenn will be somewhere in between, with the first stage coming back from a higher and faster point than Falcon 9, possibly even higher and faster than a Falcon Heavy core, and of course SpaceX hasn’t succeeded at that yet.

    The tradeoffs that SpaceX has made allow competitors to be able to improve on SpaceX’s achievements. Each company can make their own decisions for their own tradeoffs and compromises, based upon their own priorities. SpaceX showed the world that the price tag for getting to orbit is a major factor for many customers, and several launch providers have already responded. These lower prices are allowing more and more customers to increase the demand for launch services, and Robert continually notes this increase in his (not yet daily) launch reports.

    OldSpace, such as ULA, had focused on performance: the amount of mass that went to orbit. NewSpace responded to customer needs and is bringing down the price to orbit. The former was technical excellence, and the latter is economic excellence.

  • Mark

    David E.,

    FTR, Space X successfully landed 1 of 3 FH cores but one went overboard in rough seas. A functioning FH modified Octograbber would probably have saved this booster.

    Some light payload F9s have maxed out at like 8,500 km/h and were successfully recovered. Heavy payload Starlink F9 launches only get to about 6,500 km/h. IIRC FH cores are also in this velocity neighborhood but w/ much higher payloads. This latest FH topped out at 14,200 km/h and I believe is the fastest Falcon 9 yet. No way this one is coming back w/o melting. :-)

    I agree that the expendable high thrust Falcon 2nd stages are the tradeoff to being able to recover relatively lower velocity F9 stage 1’s and is probably why Vulcan will need to use SMART for partial booster recovery.

    Great flight regardless.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I was thinking the engines are the expensive part. Making tanks is easy.

    I am guessing they figure it is easier to recover a smaller package?

    Will be interesting to see how well it works.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Tory Bruno said that the rationale for the inflatable heat shield is to recover the engines which are 60% of the total cost of the booster system.

  • George C

    About SLS safety worries, made me recall deaths by major Nasa program.
    X-15 : 1,
    Apollo : 3,
    STS : 14.

  • Edward

    George C,
    Your progression comes close to the equation (N^N)*(2/N). This still seems close when considering that the loss of a single Starship could result in 100 lost lives and N=4 results in the number 128.

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