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Space Launches, Landings & Destinations v4


SpaceChampion
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On 3/21/2021 at 12:13 PM, SpaceChampion said:

Former Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) has been nominated by the Biden administration to lead NASA.

Confirmation hearing was yesterday, and Nelson actually came out in support of the decision giving the Lunar Lander development award to SpaceX., despite a few of his former Senate colleagues complaining the money wasn't spread around to a second option.  Perhaps he genuinely support its, and perhaps Biden told him to toe the line.  Or he accepts the money wasn't enough for any other outcome.

Edited by SpaceChampion
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Another Starlink launch

 

Meanwhile both Blue Origin (leading the National Team) and Dynetics are protesting the Lunar Lander development contract decision by NASA to award SpaceX with the sole contract for demo flights to the Moon.  Basically every NASA contract gets protested by those who lose it, as SpaceX has done in the past with some NASA and Air Force (prior to Space Force) contracts.

Usually these protests go nowhere.  Sometimes they open up promises for eligibility to bid on similar future contracts at least.

Dynetics has a huge problem by proposing a bid with a "negative payload mass" ie. their spacecraft/lander system is too heavy.  I suppose they were thinking that's not a big deal, and can shave off weight here and there somehow in the future.  But to me and most people it indicates a non-starter. 

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin violated the rules of the procurement by demanding payment up front.  That alone is disqualifying if they can't even follow the instructions on how to bid.

Bezos could fund his own team himself without blinking but for some reason he's blinked.  In truth he wouldn't want to fund the others on his team because technically Blue Origin can do all of it on it's own -- just not yet.  Last I heard there are issues with the BE-4 methalox engines, delaying both Lockheed's Vulcan rocket and Blue's own New Glenn rocket.

Much more critical is that both teams proposed bids that cannot be evolved in a sustainable way to develop a lunar base in the long term.  Starship on the other hand has huge payload capability and would already have life support equipment on it, so would be a good instant base for initial sorties, and in the long term can deliver huge amounts of equipment to the base to expand it for permanent occupations.  The other two are typical "old space" ways of thinking lacking vision beyond just the minimum requirements for landing a few times on the Moon and planting flags and footprints.  Tremendously disappointing.

Neither are fully reusable rocket and lander systems.  The National Team (comprised of Blue Origin plus a bunch of aerospace companies quite used to the old cost-plus ways of bidding high and then spending more) and Dynetics (another team of several traditional aerospace companies, who bid twice the cost of National Team) clearly were relying on the politics of being widely distributed over all 50 states in order to get selected.  Boo hoo hoo.

I'm am surprised neither was selected, because politics does factor into these things, but SpaceX isn't stopping and NASA I'm sure would be wholly embarrassed by seeing a Starship land on the Moon years before anybody else they picked for their marquee project.  The politics of uncomfortable reality is finally winning out, and many of us knew it would eventually.  NASA cannot coddle the old aerospace companies forever and expect to ever achieve its goals.

 

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Starship SN15 might launch today later in the afternoon -- the weather much better then. 

Update:  Scrubbed!!  Next attempt Monday.

Update 2:  Maybe tomorrow?  Notice of a road closure for tomorrow went out but no notice of a beach closure.  SpaceX apparently has a limited amount of times they can close the beach on a weekend, per their agreement with the county.

Also, today wasn't a scrub due to weather but rumoured due to an issue with the FTS (flight termination system). 

Edited by SpaceChampion
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Crew Dragon splashed down after 6 months docked at the ISS

Starship SN15 might be tomorrow or the next day.  Weather is looking great.  SpaceX received FAA permission to launch the next three test vehicles SN15, SN16 and SN17.    They also might be skipping SN18 and SN19 to go right to SN20 to orbit.  They are fairly happy and confident about the next series of launch from what I gather, which many small design changes to the rocket and engines.  Looking to get to orbit in July I think.

If they do, that'll probably be before the 90-day period of NASA's review of the Lunar Lander demo selection process is up.  A successful orbit and landing could make the review moot rather quickly.

Meanwhile Blue Origin has announced they're about to start booking tourist flights of their suborbital rocket New Shepard.

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Livestream all day for the potential SN15 launch.  Way too early in launch operations to know when yet.  Will try to update later.

Update: Scrubbed for today!  May the 4th was not with Elon.

Edited by SpaceChampion
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20 hours ago, SpaceChampion said:

Hilarious Star Wars themed opening, and good analysis of the SN15 flight:

 

Very interesting to see they could be using the Starlink network to relay data. Upon installation, Starlink user terminals are fixed in one (geo) location with the dish constantly adjusting/tracking the optimal satellite(s) in the sky above. Makes sense as it allows user accounts to be geo-locked to the account holder's designated installation address.

Starlink has already applied for terminals on their ships, but I hope they will allow user terminals to be actively mobile on land. I would definitely consider taking one on a tour around the vastness of Australia. Terminals have already been distributed to a few beta testers in rural NSW and the ACMA, FCC equivalent here in Australia, has already approved 3 ground station sites that would cover the majority of the continent. There's also a prime site at the bottom of NZ for a ground station.  

Anyway, demonstrating Starlink tracking on a fast moving vessel like the Starship prototypes is the ultimate test.   

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48 minutes ago, ithanos said:

Starlink has already applied for terminals on their ships, but I hope they will allow user terminals to be actively mobile on land. I would definitely consider taking one on a tour around the vastness of Australia.

Yep, already planned for by the end of this year:  https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/16/22388378/elon-musk-starlink-satellite-internet-service-moving-vehicles-trucks-2021

But you'd need a truck or RV, the terminals are too big for cars.

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Starlink has more than 500,000 pre-orders now, and served more than 10,000 in its beta.   At US$99 a month (forgetting the $500 one time cost for the dish, which I heard might be sold at a loss or close to at-cost) that half million customer base would represent about $600 million in annual revenue.

SpaceX once expressed a desire to capture about $10 billion a year in revenue from Starlink.  That's about 10 million customers, which is certainly possible in a world with 3.4 billion living in rural areas.   Scaling above that might be hard.

 But it's preparing for 5 million customers in the U.S. alone.  Worldwide I can see another 5 million easily.

Edit: just read their COO Gwynne Shotwell says there is a potential for $30 billion dollar annual revenue.

Edited by SpaceChampion
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On 5/7/2021 at 12:23 PM, DireWolfSpirit said:

China debris tracking-

 

The Long March has reentered avoiding a land impact thankfully.

The hulk of the Chinese Long March rocket reentered Earth’s atmosphere around 10:30 p.m. Eastern time over the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, China’s Manned Space Engineering Office reported late Saturday night.

Videos on social media showed the 22-ton rocket, which had been drifting uncontrolled in low orbit for days, blazing a trail of light over Oman as most of its components burned up in the atmosphere.

There were no immediate reports of damage from falling debris

Edited by DireWolfSpirit
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Milestone achieved -- 10th flight of a Falcon 9 booster.  How many times can these boosters be flown is an open question, one that may never be answered if the Starship system replaces  the whole F9 rocket and is cheaper to fly.   But it proves a minimum case for reusability.

 

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