Issue No. 206

The Orbital Index

Issue No. 206 | Feb 15, 2023

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SpaceX’s Super Heavy hot fire test. SpaceX fired 31 of the 33 Raptor 2 engines on Booster 7 (video, drone shots)—technically enough to get to orbit (although without loading enough fuel to do so)—breaking the record for most engines ever ignited on a rocket simultaneously. While SpaceX is considering it a successful test (in large part because it didn’t explode and take the launch tower with it), one engine was manually cut off before ignition, and another shutdown shortly after on startup but didn’t cause a full abort. Before an orbital launch attempt, SpaceX still needs to finish any outstanding work on Ship 24, re-stack it on Booster 7, get an FAA launch license, and (potentially) finish improvements to the water deluge system that recently arrived by barge from Florida.

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Two announcements for Blue. The company, which has been rather low-profile of late, made two major announcements recently.

Blue Alchemist’s solar cell, manufactured from lunar regolith.
Five years of Hubble data show a wave of light from a supernova scattering off of interstellar dust.

News in brief. India’s SSLV small launch vehicle succeeded on its second launch attempt and delivered an ISRO EO sat, a demonstrator mission for US startup Antaris, and a student-developed cubesat to LEO Even as Russia’s Progress MS-22 arrived at the ISS, the uncrewed ​​Progress MS-21 cargo craft lost pressure—this vehicle isn’t used for crew return and will be disposed of in a fiery reentry anyway, but it doesn’t increase confidence in aging ISS and Russian hardware—meanwhile, Russia is planning to launch a replacement for their other failing ISS vehicle, Soyuz MS-22, on Sunday Intuitive Machines SPACed NASA’s Lunar Flashlight CubeSat has been unable to enter lunar orbit due to thruster underperformance—to still get a bit of science done, the agency will try to get the craft into a very high Earth orbit that passes over the Moon’s south pole once a month Canadian rocketry startup SpaceRyde, designer of a proposed small, balloon-launched orbital rocket, filed for bankruptcy The US and India announced expanded civil space collaboration, including training Indian astronauts at Johnson Space Center and collaboration on CLPS missions French company Exotrail raised a $58M Series B for their electric propulsion systems and mission design software Amazon received approval from the FCC to launch 3,236 Kuiper communication satellites Satellite images reveal the stunning level of damage from the tragic magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Turkey and Syria Axiom announced the crew for Ax-2 (along with NASA/ISS approval), including two astronauts from Saudi Arabia For the seventh time, a meteoroid was spotted before impacting Earth—this 1 meter object impacted near the English channel, with lots of nice videos showing up on Twitter from southern UK and France.

A 1 m-wide meteoroid burns up over the English channel.
A Cassini image of Saturn’s B ring with tall ring structures casting shadows on the plane of the ring. Rising up to 2.5 km above the plane of the rings (which are just 10 meters thick!), the structures only cast shadows during Saturn’s equinox every 15 years.

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