Issue No. 227

The Orbital Index

Issue No. 227 | Jul 19, 2023

🚀 🌍 🛰

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.

The world's first orbital Methalox rocket takes flight (…or is this a frame from a dimetric projection video game?)

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(Short) Papers
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 OLMA Blue Origin BE-4 exploded about 10 minutes into a test last monthVirginia-based HawkEye 360, maker of a constellation of radio signal geolocation and characterization satellites, raised $58MAstranis will launch a dedicated small GEO comms satellite for the Philippines next yearOne of JAXA’s solid-fuelled engines for the in-development Epsilon-S exploded during testing, fortunately with no injuries—the pictures are pretty epic thoughA Long March 2C launched two small experimental internet-providing sats to orbit, possibly a prototype of China’s planned Starlink competitor constellationSpaceIL’s second attempt at a lunar lander, Beresheet 2, is facing funding challengesViaSat’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
The JWST team shared a one-year anniversary image last week. This IR view of Rho Ophiuchi, one of Earth’s closest known star-forming regions (at 460 light-years away), shows 50 Sun-like stars forming in a stellar nursery, some with shadowy protoplanetary disks.

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