¶The world’s first methalox orbital launch. LandSpace, a commercial launch company based in Beijing, sent their Zhuque-2 launch vehicle to orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia last Wednesday. This was their second launch attempt after a failure last December (here’s a solid video run down from Dongfang Hour on LandSpace). The flight wasn’t without some Starship-esque “engine-rich” sputters (official video) but ultimately reached orbit to become the world’s first successful orbital methalox vehicle. The company has beat out Starship, Vulcan, New Glenn, Neutron, and Terran R for the title, and demonstrated what many people consider the fuel system of the future due to the cost, safety, low-coking, and efficiency of liquid methane/oxygen-fuelled engines. LandSpace is also now China’s second private launch company to reach orbit with a liquid-fueled rocket, after Space Pioneer’s Tianlong-2 earlier this year. (Space Pioneer also recently raised money for their upcoming, medium-lift, reusable Tianlong-3.) Zhuque-2 can carry 4 tons to SSO and 6 tons to LEO, although for this launch there was no payload announced (instead the vehicle perhaps carried a mass simulator). LandSpace has previously indicated Falcon 9-like reusability ambitions, with landing legs and grid fins. But, given the need for significant modifications, they may save reuse for their proposed ZQ-3 heavy-lift rocket—this larger vehicle may launch from Wenchang, China’s coastal launch center, to facilitate ocean landings.
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| ¶(Short) Papers
- Life is more likely to be found on planets orbiting metal-poor stars, as metal-rich stars produce more UV-B radiation which thins the protective ozone layers of any orbiting terrestrial worlds (paper).
- Quaoar is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, around 1,100 km across and a whopping 43.3 AU away. By observing changes in the brightness of stars as it passes in front of them (stellar occultations), this paper finds that it has at least two rings (oddly, they’re beyond the Roche limit, so they shouldn’t be stable). It also has a moon.
- Based on Parker Solar Probe data, it looks like the fast solar wind is the result of magnetic reconnection, the breaking, and reconnecting, of oppositely-directed magnetic field lines in plasma (paper).
- Samples from Ryugu collected by Hayabusa2 contained uracil, a part of RNA (paper). Uracil, and in fact every base nucleotide in DNA and RNA, has previously been found in meteorites.
- Due to the YORP effect (our favorite effect), Didymos may be an asteroid “on the edge of stability,” spinning so quickly that rocks and dust near the equator could tumble, levitate, and sometimes end up in orbit (paper).
- A recent paper explores methods of landing a spacecraft in the incredibly weak gravitational fields of asteroids. These methods include various anchoring systems that use drills, spikes, barbed spears, lassoes, nets, quick-acting adhesives, and/or magnets… time to rustle ourselves up an asteroid.
| Methods of catching an asteroid.
| ¶News in brief. SpaceX tested their massive steel sandwich / upside-down shower head water deluge system for the first time after integration into the OLM ● A Blue Origin BE-4 exploded about 10 minutes into a test last month ● Virginia-based HawkEye 360, maker of a constellation of radio signal geolocation and characterization satellites, raised $58M ● Astranis will launch a dedicated small GEO comms satellite for the Philippines next year ● One of JAXA’s solid-fuelled engines for the in-development Epsilon-S exploded during testing, fortunately with no injuries—the pictures are pretty epic though ● A Long March 2C launched two small experimental internet-providing sats to orbit, possibly a prototype of China’s planned Starlink competitor constellation ● SpaceIL’s second attempt at a lunar lander, Beresheet 2, is facing funding challenges ● ViaSat’s latest massive GEO sat has encountered an “unexpected event” during reflector deployment, potentially degrading its satellite performance (and definitely its stock performance) ● Chandrayaan-3 successfully launched on its way to the Moon ahead of an August 23rd landing attempt—our friend Jatan Mehta has a write-up in Scientific American. 🤞🌖
| GSLV Mk III carrying Chandrayaan-3 Moonward. Credit Ananth Y R
- We haven’t featured it in a while, but we’ve recently done a few small updates to Awesome Space, our open source repository of interesting and useful smallsat development resources.
- Evelyn Boyd Granville, who broke barriers as one of the first Black women to receive a Doctorate in mathematics, died this past week, at 99.
- This June was the hottest June on record… and July 3rd was the hottest day ever, worldwide. 🔥🌎
- A reminder that space trash sometimes becomes Earth trash: a piece of what looks like an ISRO PSLV third-stage fuel tank washed up on a Western Australia beach.
- SAR, first developed for use on atmospheric aircraft, has become commonplace in the Earth Observation industry. With new developments, it could also help cars find parking spots and perform emergency braking, replacing lidar at a lower cost and in a smaller form factor.
- Did a professor dive 2,000 meters to the floor of the South Pacific and use a magnet to retrieve some interstellar alien tech based on a letter from the US Navy? Our opinion: Highly dubious 🙄
- Also filed under things potentially originating from alien life: Perseverance’s SHERLOC instrument has found continued evidence of organic molecules on Mars that Curiosity first found indications of back in 2015. “There are both biotic and abiotic mechanisms that can form organic molecules. Interplanetary dust, infall from meteorites or water-rock interactions can produce organics abiotically […] On the other hand, ancient life could produce these organics as well, but this is generally a last resort hypothesis. We need to rule out all abiotic mechanisms before we jump to the conclusion that any organic molecule is a sign of life.”