Three space news


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Three space news

1. Boeing and SpaceX talked about preparing for testing manned ships.

On October 8, at the International Symposium on Private and Commercial Space Flights, John Mulholland, Vice President of the Boeing Space Division, spoke about the ongoing preparations for the first flight of the Starliner manned spacecraft. The company plans to test the ship’s emergency rescue system at the launch pad in early November. The first launch of the ship in automatic mode is scheduled for December 17. It will have to demonstrate docking with the ISS, spend a week there and return to Earth, confirming its reliability. Starliner is the only American ship that, upon returning to Earth, does not descend into the Pacific Ocean. He will land at a military training ground in the state of New Mexico.

Earlier, Starliner was scheduled to launch to the ISS in May, but Boeing announced it would be postponed to August, citing the workload schedule of the Atlas V rocket launches. The company does not explain further transfers and does not report any significant problems. The assembly of the ship for the first flight is nearing completion. Soon a frontal heat shield should be installed on it.

SpaceX's Dragon 2 manned spacecraft is also nearing completion. Dragon 2 unmanned flight took place in March. Next in turn is a test of the emergency rescue system in flight, which, according to the latest data, will be held in late November or early December. For testing, an apparatus that was originally intended for the first manned flight will be used – it will replace Dragon 2, which returned from space in March and was destroyed in April by an explosion that happened in preparation for burning engines. According to a SpaceX spokesperson, the investigation into the incident is "almost complete."

In parallel, SpaceX continues to test the parachute system, which must be completed before the first manned flight. So far, 25 parachute trials have been completed, ahead of them, according to Benji Reed, Director of SpaceX commercial manned flight program, many more trials.

On October 10, NASA Director Jim Bidenstein visited SpaceX to familiarize himself with preparations for the first manned mission of the Dragon 2 ship. According to SpaceX founder and technical director Ilon Mask, all the necessary equipment for the first manned flight, including a rocket and a ship, will be delivered to the cosmodrome in December . The flight date will depend on the completion of testing and certification of the entire system.

2. SpaceX will launch microsatellites as a back-loading in March.

The program to launch small satellites as a passing load on Falcon 9 rockets was announced several months ago. At first, it did not interest customers, but then SpaceX lowered its prices.

There are now three approaches to launching small satellites on the market. Firstly, such devices are launched as a passing load with large satellites. In this case, the launch time and the target orbit depend on the readiness of the main device. Secondly, from time to time, cluster launches of dozens or even hundreds of small satellites are carried out. This opportunity has to wait for years, for example: the launch will be postponed until all spacecraft are ready to launch. Finally, in recent years, Rocket Lab, which uses the Electron ultra-lightweight rocket, has been offering individual launch services for small vehicles. It can provide a guaranteed launch at the appointed time and in the right orbit, but, of course, buying a separate rocket costs the customer more.

SpaceX's approach is not to bind a particular small device to a particular launch vehicle. Falcon 9 will start more often than once a month, and a company planning to launch its microsatellite into space will be able to take advantage of the next launch with a free slot. SpaceX, on the other hand, will not have to postpone launches due to the unavailability of the associated load. The first such launch is scheduled for March next year. In the future, they will occur regularly.

If this SpaceX program succeeds, it could question the economic prospects of ultralight launch vehicles. The Rocket Lab company did not go on frequent launches, and in the near future Virgin Orbit with the LauncherOne and Firefly Aerospace with the Firefly Alpha rocket should join it.

3. NASA launched the ICON ionosphere probe.

Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus XL rocket launched its ICON (Ionospheric Connection Explorer) satellite into orbit yesterday. The ionosphere is influenced by many different factors, including the change of seasons on Earth, daily temperature drops and solar flares. The goal of ICON is to study how storms in the lower atmosphere of the Earth affect the ionosphere.

The Pegasus XL is a two-stage light rocket starting from the L-1011 Stargazer carrier aircraft. It is separated from the aircraft at an altitude of about 12 km. The rocket is capable of displaying up to 450 kg in a low Earth orbit. Despite its modest performance, the launch of the Pegasus XL costs about $ 40 million.

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