It is over! SpaceX Starship Updates, Falcon Heavy / Ariane 6 updates, Crew 3/2 delays
This video is supported by Brilliant. Hey, Hey Marcus House with you here. This week astounding work at Starbase continues with the huge push towards the first orbital flight of Starship, and rapid work continuing at the launch and production sites. Blue Origin loses the legal case against NASA on the Human Landing System, but what does that mean? Delays on Crew 3 for medical reasons and weather. A few quick updates on Ariane 6 to talk about which is the successor to Ariane 5. Is this next rocket in development going to compete with the insane innovation going on around the world or not? Then we have a flood of Falcon Heavy launches coming soon. The next year is going to be incredibly exciting. Starting at the build site this week, progress of the new wide bay has rapidly sped up with many pieces of the structure rising up into the air. Based on aerial views by the incredible RGV Aerial Photography, the wide bay’s dimensions measure roughly 50 meters wide, 35 meters deep, and 90 to 100 meters tall. This provides more than twice as much floor space as the current high bay next to it with enough room for SpaceX to stack 3 to 4 four Ship or Booster tank sections at once. This will rapidly increase the production capacity of these vehicles. Progress on future ships has also continued with Ship 22’s thrust section being flipped to its correct orientation and that is now ready for stacking. Its middle liquid oxygen section was also spotted covered with the insulation blanket layer. This sits between the steel and the tiles and is an added layer of protection against the heat during reentry, which would help to continue insulating that area somewhat if the vehicle loses a tile or two in flight. Most notably, the Nosecone Barrel for the same ship was spotted with the label here showing that this is 3. 6mm steel rather than the typical 4mm. This is going to help with overall dry mass. Terrific views of all this there by Nic and Mary with NASASpaceFlight. Now we recently saw the B2. 1 test tank lifted onto the booster test stand. This test article is all about checking to see if the steel structure will hold up to the massive forces it will need to. It is going to simulate the thrust of the 20 outer raptor engines. We know this, because we can see these 20 hydraulic rams spaced around the bottom of the structure similar to what we’ve seen in the past when testing the ship engine mount points on the thrust puck. Over the past few months we’ve seen people using the nickname “Can Crusher” for this test stand and it isn’t too difficult to see why. The thrust from 20 Raptors, with each producing around 185 metric tons of thrust, adds up to around 3700 metric tonnes of force. It will be very interesting to see how these tests perform. Over at the launch complex, work has been steadily progressing as teams continue to prepare the launch pad and Booster 4 for its test campaign. Early in the week, Raptor 57 was delivered to the launch site to be installed onto the booster. Work also continues on the metal heat shield structure placed around the engines to protect the delicate plumbing and electric components incorporated into the 29 closely packed engines. Furthermore the Composite overwrapped pressure vessel or COPV tanks have recently received a thermal insulation blanket around them in preparation for these new aero covers to be installed on top. Those covers were recently spotted by RGV, lined up next to each other on the ground next to Booster 4. Close by while the rented LR 11350 crane was being disassembled, SpaceX’s own LR11000 crane continued having its parts delivered to the launch site and as new parts arrived, they were promptly put together. We’ll be seeing this crane ready for action before you know it. Over at the orbital launch tower, the cable chain that was installed last week has now been connected to the carriage to feed power and hydraulics to the catching arms. Additional hardware has been attached to the bottom of the chopstick arms as well. These seem to be attached by a hinge which provides it the ability to swing up and inward towards either the ship or the booster. The trouble with catching the vehicle on two hard points is that there is still one uncontrolled degree of freedom, where the ship or booster is able to swing parallel to the arms. This is obviously not ideal for precision stacking. It’s believed that these additions are the start of a fixture to lock into those lower hard hardpoints to provide total control of the vehicle while stacking. In fact if we look over at Booster 5 where it is currently undergoing stacking in the Highbay, we may have already spotted the start of these new longer hardpoints. By zooming in and counting 6 1/2 rings straight down from the catching hardpoint, you’ll see the lower hardpoint for the booster here. We also expect this same system used for the lifting of ships. Speaking of the tower systems, early in the week this part was delivered to the launch site posted on twitter by Owe with the photo taken by Golden boy. The speculation here suggests that this could serve as a hose guide for the ship’s quick disconnect system. This would allow transfer of the propellent and power from the tower to the ship. ErcX on twitter posted an animation here of a Possible Spin Separation Method for Starship showing the vehicle pitching up before cutting off. ErcX stated that the movement and velocity may be off however Elon replied by saying that it was pretty close. It’s interesting to note here that if this is very similar to reality, will the upper stage ignition might actually help to flip the booster around. As always I appreciate the amazing work done by the 3D artists out there. Please do subscribe to their content where you can as they have this amazing ability to allow all of us to visualise these ideas in a way that works so well. It’s sadly not always easy for them to get the support they need. You are all incredible so thanks for following and supporting all of us. By the way: it’s done. It’s over. . . Well, hopefully. Jeff Bezos looks to have finally accepted the decision on who will be developing the initial lander system for NASA’s return to the Moon. The US Court of Federal Claims ruled against Blue Origin’s claim that the decision process for the HLS was flawed. Jeff accepted the decision seemingly gracefully tweeting out that this was Not the decision they wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract. Elon of course couldn’t help himself but tweet out his reaction to this decision with a polite and welcoming gesture in the form of this meme. So hopefully this at least means there won’t be any more escalations of this lawsuit in future. For now at least, NASA will likely return as soon as possible to continue the HLS development process with SpaceX. As we’ve seen in Tim’s interview with Elon, a lot of aspects of the landing system are not decided yet. For example: Will they use the side thruster idea or not? But not all is blue for Blue Origin! They rolled out the New Glenn pathfinder into the open to give us a glimpse of it in the wild! Nice shot by Kyle Montgomery of it here. Obviously this is not going to be flight hardware but more tests of dimensions, logistics and fit checks. It might enable them to test processing of the stage before launch and after landing. Now this is the same pathfinder that we’ve seen evidence of for quite a while now, so this isn’t brand new. But all the same, it is nice to see something rolling out of the facility there. Ok, so what is more exciting than watching a Falcon Heavy launch? Well, how about 4 of them!? That’s exactly what we can now expect throughout the next year. In fact there may even be a possibility of a fifth mission with USSF-67 also anticipated to be a Heavy variant but not yet confirmed by the US military. There will be a trio of launches, all for U. S national security. The payloads for those three missions are classified, so we won’t know a lot about those. We also have the Viasat-3 broadband satellite that will require the huge power of the Falcon Heavy. And then what should be the most exciting mission. NASA’s Psyche mission which will launch next year to then arrive at its destination in 2026 to explore a metallic asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. This I think is hugely exciting. It has been much longer than I’d like since we saw a Heavy variant lift off. The incredible booster separation and double booster landings. These are just incredible to witness. They are quite rare currently though. The last was from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in June of 2019. This was the STP-2 mission, placing 24 small satellites into orbit as part of a demonstration mission. Two months prior to that mission we saw the Arabsat-6A satellite successfully put into orbit. Of course how could we not mention Starman cruising the neighborhood in Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla back in February of 2018. There were meant to be two launches for Falcon Heavy this year. Unfortunately a mix of range scheduling conflicts and payload delays pushed these missions into 2022. So yes, some pretty cool milestones coming up here including Falcon Heavy’s first national security mission heading direct to geostationary orbit. While the centre core will be expendable, the recovery of side boosters will be quite the spectacle as we should see the first recovery attempt using two drone ships. That is unprecedented at this point. Can you imagine how that will look? Many of us are wondering whether they would be spaced close enough to see in a single camera shot, or if they will be separated well away from each other. I’m very much hoping there will be a drone or aircraft to capture this from above as that will be a stunning thing to witness. 2022 is just around the corner now and there is already plenty to look forward to here from SpaceX. With at least six cargo and crew Dragon missions and other commercial and Starlink satellite launches lined up, it’s sure to be a massive launch schedule. Not to mention continued Starship development and testing. Pretty amazing stuff here made on earth by Humans! Now there is also something else quite interesting lurking around the corner in 2022! Ariane Group expects Ariane 6 to fly next year. And there are already about 20 flights booked on this new launch vehicle. It will be the successor of Ariane 5, the current workhorse of the European Space Agency. Ariane 6 is expected to cost half of Ariane 5 while carrying about the same payload so this is going to be a massive improvement and will allow more affordable launches in the future. The payload capability should see it delivering over 20 metric tonnes to Low Earth Orbit or about 10 tonnes to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit in the stronger of 2 variants. This variant, called Ariane 64, will have 4 Solid Rocket Boosters or SRB’s. These are the P120C’s. Interestingly, a single P120C will also be the new first stage of the Vega-C rocket which is a 2. 3 metric tonnes to LEO launch vehicle used by ESA. So yes, it is nice that the SRB design can be used for multiple vehicles. How does the launch cost compare to say a Falcon 9? Well, even in the most powerful version, the launch cost works out to be around 5,500 Euros per kilogram of payload which is currently roughly 6400 US Dollars per kilogram. This is over 50 percent above that of Falcon 9. With Ariane 5, the current upper stage is not capable of restarts so it is excellent to see that Ariane 6 will be using the new restartable Vinci engine. This means it will have the capability to perform much more complex in-orbit maneuvers. It will run on hydrogen and oxygen and use the expander cycle like the famous RL10 by Aerojet Rocketdyne but it’ll have over 60 percent more thrust and an incredible specific impulse of around 457 seconds. Not quite as high as the RL10, but very close. It certainly needs to be a powerful and efficient engine since the upper stage is expected to be quite heavy with about 6 metric tonnes in dry mass compared to 31 tonnes of propellant mass. This makes the ratio of propellant mass by dry mass around 5. To compare, the Centaur III upper stage, the workhorse upper stage of United Launch Alliance, has a ratio of about 9 so Centaur has it easily beat there. While I think it is awesome to see the European rockets getting updated, Ariane 6 doesn’t really feel like it’s trying to keep up with its competition already flying, let alone what we see being created in Boca Chica. It is still using partially solid propellants, and it’s not reusable. Saying that, ArianeGroup expects a reusable successor of Ariane 6 to be up and running somewhere around 2030, so at least that is on the distant horizon. The main engine of the core stage, the Vulcain 2. 1 is still an open cycle engine. There is nothing wrong with open cycle of course. If you are a new rocket development company like a lot of small satellite launchers, going for this simple, reliable but slightly inefficient engine cycle, is fine. But if you’ve been in the rocket business for over 50 years now, you would think they’d be tackling at least a staged combustion design. Ah, maybe I’m being too hard on them. What do you think? Is this updated design going to be out of date before it launches? Let me know in the comments. The developments with the new supporting launch infrastructure are critical too. ESA’s launch site in French Guyana is well underway! Just recently, we were provided with new footage. The quick disconnect system has been tested extensively and the deluge system test is incredible to watch. This will spray huge volumes of water on the launch pad and beneath the launch table to protect both the launch vehicle and its payloads. The water will largely absorb and deflect the tremendous acoustic energy generated at liftoff. This they estimate to be around 180 decibels at launch with Ariane 6. Noise like this, as we learned in our “Explosive Potential” video , can do serious damage, so the deluge system reduces this a great real. During the launch, about 700 metric tonnes of water are sprayed over the pad. This is about half of what is planned for the Space Launch Systems launch pad for comparison. Sadly we still don’t know anything more about what is planned in this regard for Superheavy. While Ariane 6 with 4 SRBs will have an impressive 1,800 tonnes of thrust, Superheavy aims to quadruple that value after a few iterations. Hopefully we’ll see something more concrete on the Super Heavy launch stand soon. A quick update on the Crew 3 launch that we talked about in last week’s video. Obviously that launch has not happened yet. It was originally scheduled to take off last weekend, however it was then rescheduled mid week due to the weather conditions along the flight path not looking great. At the start of the week however the launch was pushed further. So why that delay? We’ll talk about that more in a moment but first a big thank you to Brilliant for supporting this video. Brilliant is a learning platform dedicated to helping anyone from kids right through to adults. You could be starting off as a beginner with their Math and Science fundamentals courses, which are beautifully broken up with interactive, hands-on examples. Perhaps you already know the basics. In that case, dive right into intermediate or advanced courses. My career has been all about technology and a lot of programming. I can tell you right now, if you like the idea of creating unique websites, software, or even robots, you will get a real kick out of Brilliant’s Algorithm Fundamentals course. This helps you learn how searching algorithms work so effectively by breaking it down visually. An algorithm is essentially a step-by-step process that typically runs over a large amount of input data. As soon as you get started learning programming at a basic level, you will encounter arrays that store such information. This course will show you how searching algorithms work so effectively, and how you can sort the data in any order you want. These videos wouldn’t be here without Brilliant’s amazing support, so if you are also naturally curious and want to explore as well, do yourself a favour and check it out. Just head to brilliant. org/MarcusHouse, and the first 200 people will get 20% off the first year of Brilliant Premium. The link is in the description. Ok, so why the latest delay on Crew 3? Well, NASA stated that it was due to a minor medical issue involving one of the crew members. It wasn’t actually disclosed which of the four crew this might be, but they did specifically point out that it was not a medical emergency or related to COVID-19. The team are continuing to monitor crew health as they evaluate potential launch opportunities. Weather seems to be the cause of the most current delays this weekend. The last earliest possible launch date I’ve seen was proposed to be Monday the 8th of November, however that could still push out further. Just check the latest news on that as it arises. Along with delays on the Crew 3 launch, that is also causing issues for Crew 2. As it stands right now, NASA may even bring Crew 2 back home before Crew 3 launches meaning that we won’t see that usual handover we would typically see. Good luck to Crew 3. NASA astronauts Raja, Tom and Kayla, with Matthias from ESA are going to have a lengthy stay at the space station for a six-month period estimated to return sometime in late April next year. I think it is so wonderful seeing Crew Dragon on these rotations. It is easy to think of this as routine at this point but remember that Crew Dragon is still a very young vehicle so I’m still incredibly excited seeing these launches. Crew Dragon is really helping to lower the cost to orbit already and interestingly of course just recently Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of the Russian space agency, said in a press conference that “In our view, SpaceX has already acquired enough experience for us to be able to put our cosmonauts on Crew Dragon”. That is a pretty spectacular thing to hear from Russia as they have been quite critical of SpaceX in the past. Only the last year or two has the tide really turned here. Just a few months ago we saw Rogozin stating that “Elon Musk realizes many of the ideas and thoughts that we wanted to realize, but did not get to because, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, our space program halted for some time”. Also adding “we respect him as an organizer of the space industry and as an inventor, who is not afraid to take risk. “. So yes, who knows, perhaps we may see Cosmonauts signing up for some trips to the ISS in the near future on Crew Dragon. So yes, that is what’s been happening this week but also there are a few interesting launches coming very soon. We have JAXA getting ready for the RAISE-2 flight which has been delayed twice now due to technical issues and weather. That will be sending up 9 demonstration satellites in a rideshare deal. Rocket Labs launch is hopefully coming in just days which will be attempting that booster retrieval with the chutes. As tweeted the other day the BlackSky Satellites are integrated and ready for launch! Finally it looks like the next Starlink launch is about to happen potentially this coming week. We’ve recently seen that they are struggling to fulfill orders for its internet kits due to the frustrating microchip shortage. That is even now shown on the Starlink FAQ page. I don’t know if this is also causing issues getting the actual satellites ready for launch, but regardless, we will hopefully be seeing next dedicated polar launch soon. Also still awaiting the next hopefully non-sideways launch of Astra as well. Thank you for watching all the way through, liking and subscribing to what I do. That is most awesome of you. To the team of you out there helping as Patrons or Youtube members right here, I’m so grateful to each and every one of you. Thanks so much. Also, last week people really helped via the merch store as well. A lot of you really loving the Light this Candle shirt which is awesome! You can pick that up with any of the other design variations below. If you like what we are doing and would like to help assist me as a Youtube member or Patron, that will give you access to our locked Discord channels so that we can all chat directly. And along with being listed here you get to view ad free versions of these videos before they go live as well. In the tile in the bottom left today, we have my mid week video from a little over a week ago. Lots of great comments on that topic. 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