Issue No. 42

The Orbital Index

Issue No. 42 | Dec 10, 2019


🚀 🌍 🛰

How to get involved. Over the last 41 issues, we’ve tried to highlight opportunities for our readers to get involved with space. Here are some of our favorites from those issues, with a few new ones mixed in as well.

The CRS-19 launch. Andrew had the privilege of joining the friendly folks at NASASocial to watch the SpaceX CRS-19 ISS resupply mission launch last Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center (official video, or see Andrew’s low-quality iPhone video and stay for the saturating engine rumble from 3.2 km away). This mission included a 6 hr upper stage coast phase—a "thermal demonstration" for an unknown (likely military) customer—and so a longer first-stage burn was required and the booster landed on Of Course I Still Love You instead of returning to KSC (much to Andrew’s disappointment). The twice-flown Dragon docked with the ISS Harmony module on Sunday, delivering 2,585 kg of cargo including RiTS, a "robot hotel" to protect tools for Dextre from the space environment outside the ISS; two RELL units that detect ammonia coolant leaks (already tested) that will live at the RiTS; a group of “mighty mice”—genetically engineered mice that lack the muscle-inhibiting protein myostatin—with the goal of developing drugs that promote muscle growth for astronauts and patients; the student-built 1U CubeSat AztechSat-1 from Mexico to test communication with the Globalstar network; the Hyperspectral Imager Suite (HISUI) that can look for minerals and biologic processes through many spectral bands; a CubeSat with a cork-based heatshield and titanium and silicon carbide exterior, designed to survive atmospheric reentry (but not landing); the Confined Combustion experiment to explore the physics of fire by removing gravity as a factor; and, because ‘the ISS is now open for business’, an experiment from Budweiser to study the malting process of barley in space 🍻. Also seen while at KSC: Blue Origin’s New Glenn assembly high bay under construction (they’re busy expanding in Seattle and LA too), historic Pad 39B with the mobile launcher for SLS (check out those pipes for the water deluge sound suppression system!); Starliner upright on its Atlas 5 launch vehicle for testing ahead of a Dec 20th launch, an Orion capsule boilerplate for crane-testing, and the vehicle-ready SLS assembly high bay in the VAB.
News in brief. SpaceX is dropping development of the Mk1 and Mk2 Starship prototypes to focus on Mk3, with Florida development paused and some of that team moving to help in Boca Chica; a Soyuz launched an unmanned Progress supply craft to the ISS which docked successfully (yes, that’s two ISS resupply launches in one week); Rocket Lab’s 10th Electron vehicle, dubbed Running Out Of Fingers, launched on Dec 6th, carrying 7 satellites (including a 75 kg satellite that will create artificial meteor showers by burning up pellets in the upper atmosphere), with the booster successfully reporting telemetry all the way back to the surface, an initial step in their reusability plans; China launched two Kuaizhou rockets in 6 hours from mobile launchers; NASA unveiled the completed Artemis Core Stage with a ‘Go SLS!’ by Bridenstine (for $800 m - $1.6 bn per launch) shortly after engineers purposefully ruptured its test hydrogen tank during an over pressure test (>260% of rated pressure); and, interstellar comet 2I/Borisov made its closest approach to the Sun on Dec 8th.
Etc.

A reminder that Martian sand dunes remain quite pretty.


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