SpaceX Starbase Extension Dropped, Starship Updates, Crew Dragon Axiom-1, Amazon Project Kuiper
This video is supported by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform for your online presence. Hey, Hey Marcus House with you here. Yet another crazy week of awesome space news to cover today! Not just all the huge progress during the week with Starship development, but so much to catch up on outside that as well. We have the SLS Wet Dress Rehearsal updates. Friday’s launch of four private astronauts to the international space station with Axiom Space’s on Crew Dragon. Amazon has announced 83 rocket launches for Project Kuiper, their broadband satellite constellation. RocketLab assisted BlackSky to set a company record, and astounding findings from Hubble. Firstly, an interesting piece of unintentional Starship development news this week coming out of the orbital launch pad at Florida. On Tuesday night, SpaceX shared a photo of the Falcon 9 and Dragon vertical at Pad 39A for the launch of Axiom 1. Will cover that later in the video, but if you zoom into the background here you may notice the Starship pad under those bright spot lights. Just next to the falcon 9, you can see a foundation for the base of the orbital launch tower under construction, and right behind that you can see what is possibly the ground breaking for the orbital launch mount too. Now at Starbase in Texas, in a newly released letter, the site expansion plan applications, previously filed with the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2021, were withdrawn, citing a lack of documentation from SpaceX, and their decision to establish launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center. That expansion at the launch site would have included Orbital Launch Mount B, another landing pad, and much more. In this tweet from Mauricio of RGV Aerial Photography showing where the proposed expansion would be. SpaceX does have the option to re-apply for the site expansion, but I don’t think that would happen any time soon with the lack of launch approval from the FAA and with them ramping up the launch site at Florida. Speaking of which, Greg Scott and Farrielle took another flight at the cape. It is worth noting that new flight restrictions limit how close they can get to Roberts Road, but at this distance we can still see a lot. The third level of Starships next Orbital Launch tower is now vertical and almost complete, with more sections ready to go. If we zoom right in here you can even see that at least two, perhaps three more pads for tower segment construction have now appeared. It could be that there are building 9 or 10 of these pads in total. The ground and foundation work here is what also blows my mind. SpaceX are making massive progress here. It is super handy being able to see these perspectives so if you can support the flights there please do. So yes, digging into the updates at Starbase, last week after being moved to the launch site, Booster 7 was hooked up to the crane right beside the booster testing stand, dubbed the can crusher. It looked like it would up onto that stand for its first big test. However, it seemed that plans had changed right after as it was disconnected from the crane so that both could individually roll over to the orbital launch pad. From here Booster 7 was again hooked up to the crane that night. The next morning, it was carefully lifted up out of the booster transport stand, was raised up into the air, and moved over to the orbital launch mount. It was then gently lowered into the launch ring ahead of initial testing. During that lift, Nic with NasaSpaceFlight captured this great shot that allowed us to see partially into the skirt. What’s very obvious is that all the raptor plumbing, wiring and gimbal hardware is on the booster already which should make for easier Raptor 2 installation. With this version of the engine being simplified from Raptor 1, it will be interesting to see how rapidly they are attached this time. On Sunday afternoon, the booster Quick Disconnect was attached to Booster 7 and that evening the LR11000 crane was detached from the vehicle. Monday morning, the pad was cleared of personnel and the tank farm was spooled up ready for testing. At 3pm frost formed on the upper tank as it was filled with liquid nitrogen, and soon after the bottom tank started frosting up too. I think what was most astounding though was this! Just over an hour later Booster 7 had both its liquid oxygen and methane tanks completely filled in this cryogenic test. This is the first time by the way that a booster has been filled up to the brim on both tanks like this. Compare this to Booster 4’s latest cryo test that had its liquid oxygen tank full but its methane tank to only half way. After about an hour of the Booster 7’s tanks being completely full, the booster started to detank, and the frost levels went down. After depressurising the tanks late into the night, the event was concluded after quite an impressive day of testing. The alignment pins that were on Booster 4’s transport stand were moved to Booster 7’s transport stand this week. I think that these alignment pins will possibly be required when a booster is moved in and out of the stand when using the tower arms. This is because when the clamps on the stand let go of the booster, there is nothing stopping it from swaying back and forth. These pins are very necessary as SpaceX can’t afford to damage the bells of the 20 engines on the outer ring of the booster. The pins can raise up and down, and slide in and out so that they can slot into the two sockets on either side of the booster here. With both the tower arms and the alignment pins, it should eliminate the need for having a dozen workers holding the booster using guide ropes. Something that I doubt is even allowed if the booster is under the arms of the chopsticks anyway. Thanks a heap to the amazing Ryan Hansen Space for putting this together. Much more information on his channel is coming soon so stay tuned for that. On Tuesday Nic shared an announcement that was heard over the PA system saying that SpaceX were “clearing the pad for rigging and crane operations.” The crane was soon hooked up to the Ship quick disconnect umbilical arm on the orbital launch tower which is responsible for delivering the propellant into the ship. That piece of equipment was soon lowered to the ground. Now this we suspect is because it would need to be altered to accommodate the changes on Ship 24 and onwards. We know that the quick disconnect plate is one ring higher and would almost certainly have an evolved design. Mid week, the can crusher was offloaded from the Self Propelled Modular Transporters and placed on the ground. Just yesterday, booster 7 was lifted off the orbital launch mount by the crane, and lowered down to be placed on the can crusher. It’ll be interesting to see if some testing occurs here soon, or if this is just a temporary resting place. Over at the production site, on Sunday night, Ship 24’s aft section was picked up in front of tent 3 and moved inside. The next day, it emerged out the other end of the tent, was moved into the Highbay, and lifted by the bridge crane. It was mated to the top of Booster 8’s forward section for a fit check to ensure that the pins and slots fit together as required. Early the next morning, it was destacked from the booster and lowered to the ground. A few hours later, Ship 24’s common dome and middle liquid oxygen assembly that was stacked in the Midbay at the end of February was moved over to the highbay, lifted up by the bridge crane, and stacked onto that same aft section. A week ago Booster 8’s aft section number two was lifted into the Highbay with its common dome section following it the next day. It was promptly lifted up by the bridge crane and stacked onto that aft section which begins the liquid oxygen tank assembly, now 8 out of 24 rings tall. This, along with the completed methane tank means that we should see a fully stacked Booster 8 in the very near future. A newly spotted thrust dome for either Booster 9 or perhaps even the Booster 7.1 test tank was lifted onto the sleeving stand early in the week, which was sleeved with the usual 4 stack of the slightly shorter rings. A new Booster header tank sporting a capped downcomer pipe here showed up. This I suspect could possibly be a test tank for the newly designed liquid oxygen header tank in the Boosters that we’ve seen on Booster 7 and Booster 8. Such rapid production work going on here with all that activity, and as always, many of these production updates are beautifully shown in Brendans latest production diagram. So do go check those out on his twitter account and subscribe to his feed there to stay up to date. That support really helps him do what he is doing there. And of course it is hugely useful for the channel right here too. So grateful to all of you for following what we do here each Saturday. Well, time for some updates on the SLS Wet Dress Rehearsal! Last week of course everything was scheduled to largely be tested out on Saturday and Sunday, the 2nd and 3rd of April. It certainly didn’t all go as smoothly as we would have liked. NASA’s Space Launch System recently rolled out to launch Pad 39B to prepare for its last major tests before the first ever launch. The Artemis 1 mission. It is a super critical mission of course as this will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system, and that includes not only the SLS itself, but the Orion spacecraft, and the ground systems at the pad. The final stage of this Wet Dress Rehearsal process was a full propellant load test, and a practice countdown. Essentially almost everything but firing up the engines. So, why wasn’t it a smooth process? [Ad Start] I’ll jump into that in just a moment but first, a huge thank you to Squarespace today for their support of this video. Remember when you needed an expensive web developer to get a simple site up and running? Well, no more. It is so simple to get started using Squarespace with a bunch of great mobile-responsive templates to match your brand. You could be building a simple portfolio site to showcase your work history, it could be a simple blog or even an online store. 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Well, firstly the weather had a little to do with initial delays, with four lightning strikes detected at the pad on Saturday last week. One of which actually hit the tower. Yikes. The following day on Sunday the tanking test was abandoned after a fan pressurization issue on the mobile launcher. This of course caused safety concerns with ground support equipment. That issue was resolved and the test pushed back the next day. On Monday the plan was to load around 700 thousand gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant into the core stage. Initially there was a delay of several hours loading Liquid Oxygen due to a temperature limit issue. Once resolved, the Liquid Oxygen tank was filled to about 50%. When NASA was preparing to load the Liquid Hydrogen though, a panel problem on the mobile launcher was spotted which halted the test. That panel controls the vent valve of the core stage which relieves pressure during the “tanking” process. So yes, all these tests were necessary, and it was good that none of these issues were too detrimental. In fact, it is good to see the problems were not so much with the launch vehicle itself, but instead the ground support equipment. The delays have caused those unintentional consequences though such as pushing back the launch of the SpaceX Axiom 1 mission three times. Following this mission, around April the 20th from the exact same launch pad, is the Crew 4 mission sending 4 crew to the ISS. That leads us of course to the incredible mission on Friday to launch four private astronauts to the international space station on behalf of Axiom Space. There are a bunch of interesting milestones with this mission I think. As is well reported, it is the first dedicated completely private trip to the International Space Station. Don’t let that fool you though. There is a lot of experience here. Retired NASA astronaut, Michael López-Alegría is the commander. He has flown to the Space Station before and has flown in the Space Shuttle three times in total. A pretty impressive track record alone and he’s done 10 separate spacewalks which I believe is still the current record for a NASA astronaut. A picture-perfect liftoff, and fifth flight of this particular Falcon 9 booster. I found it again most interesting that the signal coverage for the drone ship landing was completely uninterrupted for the always incredible pinpoint landing out in the Atlantic Ocean. The droneship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” there as the platform for this awesomeness didn’t appear to break its link once which still seems a little unusual. We also have on board Larry Connor, Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy who each apparently paid $55 million for their seats. As the crew have collectively stated many times in the media, this is no tourism mission. There is a great deal of science and research to be done on this flight. As stated by the Axiom crew, they’ve spent between 750 and 1000 hours just in training along to prepare, and are going to be conducting 25 different experiments on the ISS. At the time of editing, the SpaceX Dragon capsule was still on its way to the International Space Station is set to dock today April 9th. Very best of luck on the mission. I’m certainly hoping Axiom Space gets all they need out of this mission prior to launching their own space station in the future which is imaginatively called Axiom Station. It is going to be a blast watching this one play out. Some pretty big news coming out of Amazon this week. The company has announced what may very well be the biggest commercial procurement of rocket launches ever. Well, assuming of course you don’t count SpaceX launching their own Starlink satellites. These launches are all for Amazon’s Project Kuiper, another low Earth orbit satellite network that will be made up of 3,236 satellites. All designed to provide broadband to communities around the world. Three agreements have been signed already including 38 separate launches on ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket, 18 launches on Arianespace’s Ariane 6, and… 12 on Blue Origin’s New Glenn. I know, right? Who would have guessed! Of course all three of these rockets are yet to fly with Ariane 6 and ULA’s Vulcan Centaur possibly making their first flights late this year, or possibly more likely 2023. Blue Origin’s New Glenn seems unlikely to fly before 2023 or even 2024. So yes, this is on top of an earlier agreement with ABL space systems for two launches of the RS1 for two test satellites that are planned to launch by the fourth quarter this year, and ULA’s 9 Atlas V launches of operational satellites. With all 77 operational launches with the new contract, it will likely cost the company a minimum of 10 billion dollars before accounting for the cost of Kuiper satellites or payload adapters. According to Michael Sheetz, Vulcan Centaur will launch 45 satellites per launch, New Glenn will launch 61 and Ariane 6 will launch 35 to 40. This is a total of 3400 satellites, averaging to roughly 3 million dollars to launch each satellite. Of course it is interesting just to run the numbers if they flew with SpaceX in some kind of upside down universe. With Falcon 9 as an obvious much cheaper option, it’s possible that it could launch 30 Kuiper satellites per launch for an average cost of 1.7 million dollars per satellite. Much cheaper, and that doesn’t even consider SpaceX’s Starship, which will more than likely begin commercial launches well before New Glenn. Starship could feasibly carry 100 to 150 Kuiper satellites per launch and is certainly predicted to cost much less than Falcon 9 despite offering at least five times the performance. RocketLab had another beautiful night launch just after my video went up last Saturday. This one broke a record too. Well.. Not for RocketLab themselves, but it allowed BlackSky to set a company record. Here was Electron ready for launch on Pad A from New Zealand at launch complex 1 in the super early hours of Sunday April the 3rd. This was no ride share mission as many are by RocketLab. This was a fully dedicated mission, the 25th Electron launch, and the third in the series of five launches for Blacksky. This one was named “without mission a beat”, and sitting on top safely enclosed in the fairings was a modified kick stage with the 2 high resolution earth observation microsatellites. Interestingly, to deploy the satellites, Rocketlab had to use a special double stack method as we see here in this image. Pretty cool how these are deployed which we’ll see in a moment. The Countdown to launch proceeded without any issues and Electron roared off the pad at 1:41AM local time. It lit up the clear night sky with its nine Rutherford engines rapidly ascending into the darkness. This one was a south easterly trajectory and moments later, main engine cut off and stage separation, followed by fairing jettison. The second stage powered by a single vacuum-optimized Rutherford engine pushed onwards, delivering the kickstage to its target orbit almost 10 minutes after launch. Due to sensitivity surrounding payload and deployment, there was no live feed, so we instead needed to settle for animations to keep us updated on this part of the mission. The coast phase for the kickstage lasted roughly 50 minutes before one final short duration burn of almost 2 minutes circularized the orbit. This was the intriguing payload deployment though. The first of the 2 satellites was released, followed by the jettison of the payload adapter. Looks kind of like a Top Hat doesn’t it? Then the second satellite was deployed. So yes, that brings the Blacksky satellite constellation now to 14 in total! Another successful mission by Rocket Lab. Blacksky later took to social media, posting that the team at Rocketlab had enabled them to deliver first images and data just a mere 12 hours after launch. On top of all this of course, the upcoming mission, nameed “There and Back Again,” will be attempting the first full recovery with the booster re-entering, deploying a series of shutes, and then be captured by the chopper as seen in early catch tests. Can’t wait for that one which should be soon. Fantastic insight there to see just how amazing RocketLabs launch services are. Now, last week I didn’t have the space to add this story in, but I’ve just got to talk about it because I find it simply incredible. On the 30th of March the Hubble team released this image. This here is farthest star ever captured! The scientists involved have named this Earendel, meaning the “Morning star”, and it is estimated to be 12.9 billion light years away. That means the light left the star 12.9 Billion years ago and has now just reached us. That alone is hard to fully comprehend. Now we don’t really know what the exact age of the universe is but, we estimate it to be around 13.7 billion years old, give or take a few hundred million years at most. That means that this star was roughly formed around a billion years after the birth of the Universe itself! What is odd here is that normally we couldn’t see this far away because at these distances, large clusters of galaxies appear only as smudges. So how did we do it? Well, it’s all thanks to gravitational lensing! Between Earth and Earendel there is a massive galaxy cluster which bends the fabric of space and time. This greatly amplifies the light from distant objects behind it, essentially acting like a magnifying glass. There is a huge amount of luck in this of course. For this to happen this monstrous lens needs to be in perfect alignment with the Hubble. Thankfully, it’s going to remain in this alignment to be analyzed for years to come. Scientists believe Earendel was probably entirely made of light gasses like hydrogen and helium but could also be 50 times the mass of our sun and millions of times brighter! These are known as Population III stars and are thought to be the early creators of heavy metal elements. They burn hot and they burn fast, living out short lives and exploding as a supernova hurling heavier elements across the universe. The mind bender when studying astronomy is always the fact that although Earendel existed 12.9 billion years ago, it would be long gone by now! And the galaxy that contained this star is calculated to now be over 27 billion light years away from our present location in space. I’m sure one of the James Webb Space Telescope’s primary goals is to study this star and look out for other Population III stars! Can’t wait to see what more we’ll discover! So yes, it has been quite an eventful week of space news, then on top of that you have the also interesting non-spacy news going on such as Musk now being the largest individual shareholder now holding 9.2% in Twitter. Yep, just lazily picking up over 73 million shares. Musk has of course been fairly critical of Twitter recently so it will be interesting to see how changes to the platform evolve at this point. Even though Elon had been tweeting polls about an edit option in Twitter, it seems to already be becoming a reality with Twitter hinting at it at the start of the month. Hopefully the feature allows everyone to still see the history of the edit. Handy for all my typos at least. Musk is also being appointed to our board of Twitter as announced here by Twitters CEO, so he is going to have a fair amount of influence I would think. What do you think? Good thing? Bad thing? I’m totally on the fence with this one to be honest. As always, thanks so much for watching all the way through. It has been another action packed week of news and I’ll be back again next Saturday. Please do double check you are still subscribed as well. Youtube has been behaving real weird the last few months. I’m just so grateful to you all helping me do what I do here. It blows my mind every single week. If you love the content like my incredible patrons and youtube members every little bit helps, and you can get those ad free videos delivered before anyone else gets to see them. The merch store links below if you want some new gear. All helps a heap. The tile in the bottom left today will take you back to the video from last week. Along with Starship Updates we had a lot on Relativity Space, SLS and Marks return to Earth. In the top right is the latest video and the bottom right… content that Youtube thinks you will like from the channel! Thanks as always for watching all this way through. Helps a huge amount! 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