Tag Archives: competition

Minerva probes send back first pictures

Ryugu's surface

Super cool images! The two Minerva probes released two days ago from Hayabusa-2 have both sent back spectacular images from the surface of Ryugu.

The image on the right was captured by the rover dubbed 1A. I have rotated it to show the surface on the bottom, but the actual picture was taking during one of the rover’s bounces while it was moving, so the returned picture had the surface on left. The white brightness is from sunlight. From the press release:

We have confirmed both rovers landed on the surface of asteroid Ryugu. The two rovers are in good condition and are transmitting images and data. Analysis of this information confirmed that at least one of the rovers is moving on the asteroid surface.

MINERVA-II1 is the world’s first rover (mobile exploration robot) to land on the surface of an asteroid. This is also the first time for autonomous movement and picture capture on an asteroid surface. MINERVA-II1 is therefore “the world’s first man-made object to explore movement on an asteroid surface”. We are also delighted that the two rovers both achieved this operation at the same time.

Other released images were taken just after release. One shows a blurred picture of Hayabusa-2, while the other sees Ryugu’s surface below.

Both of these rovers are designed to travel on the surface by a series of hops, taking advantage of Ryugu’s tiny gravity. There will be more images I’m sure from them in the coming days.

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Russia considering getting out of Gateway

The new colonial movement: In expressing a desire not to play a secondary role in its next space station, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said today that Russia might pull out of its partnership with NASA in building its Gateway lunar station.

Russia agreed last year to work with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on plans for the moon-orbiting Deep Space Gateway, which will serve as a staging post for future missions.

But the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said Russia might exit the joint program and instead propose its own lunar orbit space station project. “The Russian Federation cannot afford to play the second fiddle role in it,” he was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency, without much further elaboration.

A spokesman for Roscosmos said later that Russia had no immediate plans to leave the project.

Russia’s problem is that they simply don’t have the cash to build their own lunar station. They could build a new station of their own in Earth orbit, and that might be what they end up doing. In fact, based on the knowledge they gained from both Mir and ISS, they might be able to design that station for short interplanetary flights, such as to the Moon and back, once built.

If I was Rogozin, that is exactly what I would do. Get out of NASA’s boondoggle, and build something in Earth orbit that will really demonstrate interplanetary travel.

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Stratolaunch considering launching hypersonic rocket tests from its Roc airplane

Capitalism in space: Stratolaunch is now considering building and launching hypersonic rocket test program using its giant Roc airplane.

In the concept study presented this week, Corda and his colleagues provide a detailed description of a delta-wing testbed plane called the Hyper-Z. It would be 83.4 feet long, with a wingspan of 32.4 feet and a launch weight of about 65,000 pounds.

Stratolaunch’s hydrogen-fueled PGA rocket engine would serve as the plane’s main propulsion system, but it could also be equipped with an air-breathing propulsion system, such as a scramjet engine. The flight profiles could accommodate a maximum speed of Mach 11, or a maximum altitude of 477,000 feet.

Hyper-Z would be launched from Stratolaunch’s mammoth twin-fuselage carrier airplane [Roc], which has a record-setting wingspan of 385 feet.

I must emphasize that this is only a concept proposal at this point. The company still has to verify the operation of Roc.

What this proposal does suggest to me is that the company is still struggling to find a profitable use for Roc, and customers to go along with it. This concept appears to be a lobbying effort to both the military and NASA, offering them Roc as a testbed for such flight tests.

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NOAA awards three more experimental commercial weather contracts

Capitalism in space: NOAA this week awarded three commercial companies contracts to provide the agency weather data in its expanding effort to get this data not from government satellites but from private sources.

In the Sept. 17 announcement, NOAA said it was issuing contracts to GeoOptics, PlanetIQ and Spire to provide GPS radio occultation weather data from satellites currently in orbit or planned for launch in the coming months. That technique measures the refraction of GPS signals as they pass through the atmosphere and are received by the companies’ satellites, which can provide temperature and pressure profiles to support weather forecasting models.

The awards represent round two of NOAA’s Commercial Weather Data Pilot program, an effort by the agency to experiment with buying data from commercial providers to determine its usefulness, as well as to examine various technical and programmatic issues with such data buys.

NOAA’s management bureaucracy has resisted this transition to private enterprise, much as NASA’s bureaucracy has. Nonetheless, NOAA’s inability to built and launch weather satellites at a reasonable cost and in a practical timeframe is forcing it to change.

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Rocket Lab signs another satellite launch contract

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab has signed another satellite launch contract, this time with the Luxembourg-based company Kleos Space.

US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has signed a contract with Luxembourg-based satellite technology company Kleos Space to launch the scouting mission satellites that will geolocate maritime radio to guard borders, protect assets and save lives.

The multi-satellite system of the Kleos Scouting Mission (KSM) will form the cornerstones of a 20-system constellation that will geolocate VHF transmissions from marine vessels to provide global activity-based intelligence data as a service. The Kleos Space constellation will detect radio transmissions and pinpoint their origin and timing, enabling governments and organizations to detect activity such as drug and people smuggling, illegal fishing and piracy, and also identify those in need of search and rescue at sea.

The contract is for launches in mid-2019, which suggests that Rocket Lab is increasingly confident that it will be able to ramp up operations significantly once it makes its next two launches in November and December.

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Update on SpaceX and Boeing’s private commercial crew capsules

Link here. The key piece of news is that both companies now believe they meet NASA’s safety requirements.

[D]uring a panel discussion at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Space Forum here Sept. 18, executives of the two companies said they now believed their vehicles met that and related safety requirements.

John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for the commercial crew program at Boeing, said the company was assessing three separate requirements, including the overall loss of crew as well as ascent and entry risks and loss of mission. “Our teams have been working that for a number of years,” he said, noting those analyses have driven changes to the vehicle design, such as increased micrometeoroid and orbital debris protection. “Where we are now is that our analysis shows we can exceed the NASA requirements for all three of those criteria,” he said.

Benjamin Reed, director of commercial crew mission management at SpaceX, said his company was in a similar situation. “We’re looking right now to be meeting the requirements,” he said.

Kathy Lueders, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, didn’t confirm that the companies have, in fact, met those safety requirements. “We’re learning from a NASA perspective about how to understand the assessments that we’re getting from each of the contractors and how to apply it,” she said. “We at the NASA team are assessing the modeling that each of the providers has done.”

It should be understood that the requirements being discussed here really have nothing to do with actual engineering, but are based on a statistical analysis that estimates the risk to any passenger. In other words, it is a pure guess, and can be manipulated any way anyone wants. This is why NASA’s manager above is so vague. What she is really saying is that NASA is slowly being forced to accept the analysis of the contractors.

The article at the link also details the present schedule, which appears mostly unchanged (though Musk indicated there might be a slight delay in Dragon during his BFR presentation earlier this week), and the efforts by both companies to make their capsules reusable.

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British test satellite uses net to capture target

A British test satellite has successfully used a net to capture a cubesat target, demonstrating the technology that someday could be used to clean space junk from Earth orbit.

“It worked just as we hoped it would,” said Prof Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre. “The target was spinning like you would expect an uncooperative piece of junk to behave, but you can see clearly that the net captures it, and we’re very happy with the way the experiment went.”

If this were a real capture, the net would be tethered to the deploying satellite, which would then tug the junk out of the sky. As this was just a demonstration, the net and the box (which was actually pushed out from RemoveDebris to act as a target) will be allowed to fall to Earth on their own. Their low altitude means it should take only a couple of months before they burn up in the atmosphere.

I have embedded below the fold a video showing the net capture. It is quite spectacular. This was one of three different experiments on RemoveDebris that are testing space junk removal methods. The next is the use of a harpoon.
» Read more

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China’s Long March 3B rocket successfully launches two GPS-type satellites

The new colonial movement: China today successfully launched two more of its Beidou GPS-type satellites, using its Long March 3B rocket.

The rocket launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China, and almost certainly dropped its stages near habitable regions, as happened in June. The question is whether China has successfully clamped down on the distribution of any images of such events, taken by local residents. It failed to do so in June.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

25 China
16 SpaceX
8 Russia
7 ULA
5 Europe (Arianespace)

This launch puts China once again in the lead over the U.S. in the national rankings, 25 to 24. Moreover, with every launch this year China extends its new record for the most launches by that nation in a year.

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SpaceX’s first BFR passenger is Yusaku Maezawa, owner of Japanese fashion company

Yusaku Maezawa

Capitalsm in space: SpaceX’s first BFR passenger will be Yusaku Maezawa, the owner of Japanese fashion company, shown on the right.

Maezawa began his statement by echoing John Kennedy with these words, “I choose to go to the Moon.” He purchased the entire first flight, and will invite six to eight artists to join him on the flight and ask them to create art afterward inspired by the flight. They are aiming for a launch in 2023.

BFR

Musk began the presentation tonight with an overview of the status of BFR, noting that they plan unmanned test launches before putting humans on the rocket. The image an the right shows the habitable upper stage.

During the question and answer session after the announcement Musk was asked questions about the present stage of BFR design, and whether it has been finalized. He said they plan “a lot of test flights” and are aiming for first orbital flights in 2 to 3 years, “if things go really well.”

Musk made it clear that Maezawa chose SpaceX for the flight, rather than the other way around. Musk also said that Maezawa was paying them a lot of money for the flight, though they were not going to reveal the amount. Musk did note that the price was not trivial, and that Maezawa has already made a significant deposit. Maezawa had first approached them for a Dragon/Falcon Heavy flight, but because of the limitations of of those spacecraft, they decided it better to go with the bigger rocket.

Musk noted that the first test hops of the upper stage to test its landing capabilities will take place at Boca Chica in Texas. The launch site for the orbital missions is not yet decided.

Musk estimated that the cost for developing BFR is going to probably be around $5 billion, which he also noted rightly is quite small for this kind of project. He also said that right now they are only devoting 5% of SpaceX’s resources to this mission. As they complete the crew Dragon project, they will then begin to shift resources to BFR. He estimated that will happen sometime late next year.

Overall, it strikes me that they really do not have all the details yet worked out, with the rocket or their flight schedule. As Musk openly admitted when asked if they are sure about the schedule, “We are definitely not sure.” This is not necessarily a bad thing, since it is often better to keep an open-mind in planning something this ambitious. At the same time it tells us not to expect any of this to happen, as described.

One final point: Musk at one point said he wants a base on the Moon. “It’s 2018, why don’t we have a base on the Moon?” To me, this was an almost direct dig at NASA’s Gateway/FLOP-G project, which isn’t a base but locks us in lunar orbit. Musk was being very careful to avoid criticizing NASA, his biggest customer, but anyone who knows what is going on will quickly recognize that BFR is in direct competition with SLS/Orion/Gateway.

Based on SpaceX’s history, going from first orbit flight to flying the world’s largest rocket in only ten years, I am very confident that this company could get that first base on the Moon, long before NASA even gets Gateway launched.

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SpaceX announcement of first passenger for Lunar BFR

Capitalism in space: SpaceX will have a webcast today at 6 pm (Pacific) to announce the name of the first passenger to fly on a lunar mission using their Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).

The embed of that webcast is below, so if you wish you can watch right here.

Note that my initial post mistaken said this was happening at 6 pm Eastern time. That was an error.

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Multiple launches today

Two launches today:

  • ULA’s last Delta 2 rocket launches ICESat-2 icecap tracking satellite for NASA
  • Indian’s PSLV rocket launches two British satellites

More details about ICESat-2 can be found here.

The PSLV launch raises India’s 2018 launch total to 4, tying Japan. The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

24 China
16 SpaceX
8 Russia
7 ULA
5 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. and China are once again tied at 24 each.

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SpaceX to name on Monday its first customer for BFR flight around Moon

Capitalism in space: In a tweet SpaceX announced that it will name on Monday its first customer for flight around Moon, using its Big Falcon Rocket rather than the Falcon Heavy as previously announced.

There will be a lot of speculation over the next few days, but we must remember that the BFR is years away from launch, so nothing here is either set in concrete, nor even likely to happen.

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Luxembourg formally establishes space agency

The new colonial movement: Luxembourg this week formally established its space agency, along with a fund to back new commercial space companies.

Unlike traditional national space agencies, which support spacecraft missions and scientific research, the Luxembourg Space Agency will focus primarily on building up the country’s space industry as well as supporting education and workforce development.

Schneider noted that Luxembourg’s recent efforts, most notably the SpaceResources.lu project to attract companies working in the nascent space resources field, had led to 20 countries establishing a presence in the country. “All this is why it’s so important to me to launch today this Luxembourg Space Agency in order to professionalize our approach to this new community,” he said.

Serres said that the agency will work with a wide range of other organizations, both within the government and the private sector, to meet the agency’s goals. “The agency will be well-equipped to support industry in their daily challenges, and it leads to the most favorable environment for this sector to continue to grow,” he said, describing its four “strategic lines” as expertise, innovation, skills and funding.

That last item will include a new fund for supporting space companies. Schneider announced that the space agency will work with other government agencies and the private sector to establish the Luxembourg Space Fund, valued at 100 million euros ($116 million). The fund, according to a government statement, will “provide equity funding for new space companies with ground-breaking ideas and technology.”

Only part of the new fund will involve government money. “It will be a public-private partnership, where the government will take a share of 30 to 40 percent,” Schneider said.

The agency’s entire work force will be about 12 people, since its focus will be attracting private space companies to come to Luxembourg.

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More suborbital private rockets in the news

Two news stories today about two different suborbital rockets built by private companies:

The first story outlines the results from the August 25 test flight of SARGE.

The rocket reached an altitude of approximately 28 km. Launch and recovery took place at Spaceport America on August 25th, 2018. The rocket carried nine payloads. The flight demonstrated the SARGE system’s reusability when the vehicle was recovered with damage only to sacrificial components. The test also demonstrated the capability of the autonomous control system and validated the preflight vehicle integration process.

They have designed SARGE to fly up to 200 times, and then plan to sell it to the military which will use it as a target in its own tests.

The second story describes a suborbital launch yesterday at Spaceport America. This suborbital rocket carried three NASA experiments, the most interesting of which was the first test of a heat shield designed to open like an umbrella.

Made out of thickly woven and highly heat-resistant carbon fibers, supported by semi-rigid ribs, the ADEPT system fits into existing vehicle launch systems, but expands when separated from the rocket into a configuration that allows it to perform its mission.

The ADEPT model tested Wednesday spread to 30 inches in diameter after separation. Venkatapathy said a diameter of 75 to 80 feet would be required to deliver a crew of seven or so human explorers safely onto the surface of Mars, which has a lower gravity pull than Earth.

He said a thicker carbon weave and different dimensions would be needed to deliver scientific equipment to the surface of Venus, a planet with a gravity pull nearly as great as Earth’s, making approaches hotter and faster.

Even if neither of these companies ever scale up to orbital rockets, they signal the change in how NASA does things. In the past NASA built its own suborbital rockets. Now, they are using privately-built rockets, which allows for competition and more innovation.

This is basically the same transition NASA is undergoing in its commercial manned program, going from being the sole builder and designer of spacecraft, enforced by a government-imposed monopoly, to merely a customer buying spacecraft from many private builders. It is a transition that can only generate good results in the future.

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HP to mass produce large 3D metal printers

The replicators are coming! HP has announced that it plans to mass produce a large 3D metal printer that can be used by large industrial manufacturers.

Each Metal Jet production machine will cost less than US$400,000, and will give you a maximum build volume of 430 x 320 x 200 mm (16.9 x 12.6 x 7.9 inches).

HP is timetabling the Metal Jet roadmap in stages. Right now, it’s already operational in two pilot programs. Metal injection molding specialist Parmatech is using it to produce medical equipment like surgical scissors and endoscopic surgical jaws, and GKN Powder Metallurgy is producing parts for automotive and industrial giants like Volkswagen and Wilo.

In 2019, HP will start up a production service, which will allow manufacturers to upload 3D design files and have them printed out in industrial quantities by Parmatech and GKN. The printers themselves will begin shipping in 2020, with “broad availability in 2021.” Desktop Metal, for its part, has pushed back availability of its production machines from this year to 2019.

HP is not the first to do this, but this appears to be the largest-scale production attempt.

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First manned flights on Blue Origin’s New Shepard delayed to 2019

Capitalism in space: Blue Origin has now delayed the first manned flights on its New Shepard suborbital spacecraft into 2019.

They had said they would be doing manned test flights before the end of 2018, but these flights have not happened, and now they admit that they will be delayed until 2019.

Overall, the lack of test flights in 2018 is somewhat puzzling. They have a spacecraft that is built on a design that previously flew multiple times. Why should the second craft have problems causing such delays?

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Ariane 6 gets first commercial contract

Capitalism in space? Arianespace yesterday signed its first commercial contract for its new rocket, Ariane 6.

The Sept. 10 contract is Arianespace’s first with a commercial satellite operator for Ariane 6, and brings to eight the number of Ariane 6 missions on the company’s manifest, assuming none of the Eutelsat satellites are dual-manifested on the same rocket.

Eutelsat executives have suggested for years that the company was willing to be first in line to embrace Ariane 6, including most recently in June 2017 when the company signed a three-launch agreement for Ariane 5 missions.

Eutelsat spokesperson Marie-Sophie Ecuer told SpaceNews by email that the multi-launch agreement came with “attractive terms” that are “fully aligned with our objective to significantly reduce launch cost,” but declined to say if the company received a discount. To woo customers, SpaceX offered discounts of around $10 million to launch on the first Falcon 9 rockets to use previously flown first-stage boosters.

I question the private nature of this deal, in that Eutelsat is a European company with many legal ties to the European Union. Since all reports I’ve seen suggest that Ariane 6 is not going to be as cheap as SpaceX’s rockets, I wonder if some political pressure has been applied to Eutelsat to sign this contract.

Overall, it increasingly appears to me that Ariane 6 will not get much business outside of Europe because of its cost. Much like Russia, Europe is giving up on its commercial international market share, mainly because it can’t or won’t compete with the newer American companies.

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Faulty concrete at Vostochny launchpad caused by contractor

The faulty and spongy concrete that the Russians have discovered at the Vostochny Soyuz launchpad was caused when the contractor hurried the job as well as improperly laid the concrete.

“It was a mistake by the contractor Spetsstroi. The process of concrete laying was violated due to rush work,” the source said. “Spetsstroi laid the concrete in winter time in utterly unsuitable conditions and used drying fans.” The source said the cavities in concrete were identified more than a year and “continued to be eliminated by the public corporation itself until the contract with Adonis was concluded.

Part of the blame here falls not to the contractor but to Putin. He demanded that Roscosmos complete a launch at Vostochny in 2016, and to do so all the contractors at Vostochny had to scramble to get the job done. Apparently, this particular contractor was forced to cut corners improperly.

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India unveils spacesuit for Gaganyaam manned mission

The new colonial movement: India’s space agency ISRO this week unveiled the spacesuit it is designing for the Gaganyaam manned mission scheduled for 2022.

The new space-suit mentioned above has been developed by ISRO at its Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre over the last two years. ISRO showcased the space suit for the Gaganyaan crew at the Bengaluru Space Expo for the first time ever. As per reports, ISRO has developed two of such space suits to date and will also develop a third one prior to the testing of the manned mission in 2022. The space suit comes with a capacity of one oxygen cylinder that claims to hold enough oxygen for 60 minutes.

This suit is not being built for spacewalks, but as a backup should the spacecraft itself develop a leak.

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More aerospace problems in Russia

Two stories out of Russia today suggest that the serious quality control problems plaguing its aerospace industry have not been brought under control.

According to the second article the launch delay is because a Russian satellite manufacturer is behind schedule and might not deliver needed parts for the satellite’s assembly in time. I suspect the delay might also be related to the first article, as this satellite will launch on the brand new launchpad where they have discovered the cavities below ground.

That these cavities were not pinpointed during construction is very troublesome. One of the reasons SpaceX’s Boca Chica launchsite in Texas is taking as long as it is getting built is that the company had to make sure the soft beach property was structurally sound for rocket launches. That the Russians missed this speaks poorly again of their quality control.

Delays are common in the rocket industry, but in the context of Russia’s other space-related problems, the delay suggests a wider problem.

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SpaceX successfully launches communications satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX last night successfully launched a communications satellite as well as recovered the Falcon 9 first stage.

The biggest news here is how routine the landings of the first stage have become, getting its first mention eight paragraphs into the article above, with its landing described almost as an aside. This was a new Block 5 first stage, and it will likely fly again within a relatively short period of time.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

24 China
16 SpaceX
8 Russia
6 ULA
5 Arianespace (Europe)

China still leads the U.S. in the national rankings, 24 to 23.

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Second Chinese company completes suborbital rocket test

For the second time this week, a Chinese “private” company successfully completed a suborbital rocket test.

This time the launch was by OneSpace, which should not be confused with the other company, iSpace. As with iSpace, the rocket used was a solid rocket, which once again makes me think it is doing work for the Chinese military, and is therefore not as independent or as private as Americans normally consider private companies.

Moreover, the launch was filmed by one of China’s spy satellites, also suggesting the military’s interest in this rocket company’s development. You can see both a ground-based and that satellite’s view of the launch at the link.

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India teams up with France to prep for its first manned mission

The new colonial movement: India has signed a cooperative deal with France to provide them help in preparing for its first manned mission in 2022, now dubbed Gaganyaan by India’s press.

Following the signing of agreements between the two parties on Thursday, the agencies “will be combining their expertise in the fields of space medicine, astronaut health monitoring, life support, radiation protection, space debris protection and personal hygiene systems.”

The announcement was made by CNES [France’s space agency] president Jean-Yves Le Gall during the inaugural of Bengaluru Space Expo-2018 where he was the chief guest. It is being organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry along with ISRO and Antrix, the agency’s commercial arm, from September 6 to 8.

The two countries will also work together on other space research.

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Russia begins construction of Angara launchpad at Vostochny

Russia has begun the construction of the first Angara launchpad at their new Vostochny spaceport.

According to earlier reports, the Angara launch pad is to be completed by December 31, 2022. Construction costs are estimated at nearly 39 billion rubles ($565 million).

Somehow it seems to me that this construction is too expensive and is taking too long. A launchpad is essentially a specialized building on the surface. I don’t see why it should be so difficult or expensive to do.

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China launches ocean survey satellite

Locations of two of China's launchsites

China today launched the third satellite in a constellation of ocean-observing satellites, using its Long March 2C rocket.

Though this is the same rocket that dropped its upper stage near a Chinese town in June, the launch came from the Taiyuan launch site, not the Xichang launchsite used in June, so it is unclear if the upper stages fell near populated areas. I would expect so, however, since Taiyuan is located in the middle of China even closer to populated areas than Xichang, as shown on the map to the right.

If the launch went north from Taiyuan, then those upper stages probably landed in Mongolia. I wonder if China has worked out an agreement with that country about dropping toxic first stages onto its territory.

Regardless, in the 2018 launch standings, China now leads the U.S. 24-22. The leaders in the race, with the leading U.S. companies broken out, are as follows:

24 China
15 SpaceX
8 Russia
6 ULA
5 Europe

As mentioned previously, with every launch for the rest of the year China will set a new annual record for itself.

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More details about Chinese suborbital launch earlier this week

Link here. The article really only provides one new detail about the flight itself, that the rocket used solid rocket motors. This fact, plus the overall secrecy, suggest to me that the company, iSpace, is doing its work for the Chinese military.

The article at the link also provides a good overview of the entire Chinese “private” smallsat rocket industry.

China is still run from the top, so any “private” rocket company must have the approval and support of the government. What makes China different from Russia, also ruled from the top, is the Chinese government’s willingness to encourage competitive independent operations, something the Russians has not done. The result is that China’s rocket industry is not stagnating, but growing.

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Chinese smallsat rocket company completes suborbital launch

iSpace, a Chinese smallsat rocket company, completed a suborbital test rocket launch today, releasing three cubesats.

The article at the link is very short and poorly written. It implies that two cubesats reached orbit, with a third returning to Earth using a parachute. This was clearly a suborbital flight

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ISS airleak an accidental drill hole on ground

The airleak last week on ISS in the orbital module of a Soyuz capsule was not caused by a micrometeorite but by an accidental drill hole made by a technician on the ground who then, rather than reporting it, sealed it and covered it up..

“The hole was made on the ground. The person responsible for the act of negligence has been identified,” the source told the news agency.

Another source said a worker apparently accidentally drilled the hole, but instead of reporting it, simply sealed it. The sealant held for at least the two months the Soyuz spacecraft spent in orbit, before finally drying up and being pushed out of the hole by air pressure.

According to a Moskovsky Komsomolets report, the hole was located near the toilet and covered by decorative fabric. The Russian crew members used an epoxy-based sealant with metallic additives to plug both the hole and a fracture in the outer hull of the Soyuz located behind it, the newspaper said.

Well, if anything is going to put an end to the resistance to using privately built American manned capsule, this should do it. This is also going to do a great deal of harm to the Russian desire to sell tourist seats on their Soyuz.

Posted from Heber, Arizona.

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A glider sets new altitude record

The Perlan-2 glider yesterday set a new altitude record, reaching an altitude of more than fourteen miles.

Then on September 2, Perlan pilots Jim Payne and Tim Gardner strapped themselves in and rode the glider to an altitude of 76,000 ft (23,000 m), setting a new flight record. This is higher than Lockheed Martin’s jet-powered U2 spy plane flown by the CIA, which reached 73,700 ft (22,475 m), and places it amongst a handful of manned aircraft to sustain flight at such as altitude.

Implied but unstated in the article at the link is the military value of this technology, once combined with drone technology.

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