SpaceX Starship Launch, NASA Moon Roundtrip, Europe’s Reusable Rocket & China’s New Space Station!
2021 is going to be an exciting year forhuman spaceflight and space exploration. Let’s have an overlook of all the interesting things that are going tohappen this year, from SpaceX’s Starship to NASA’s Artemis program,to robotic exploration of Mars, and so much more. And at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility meanwhile,Starship SN9 is indeed already preparing for a high altitudetest flight,the second one ever with a Starship prototype. And the SLS core stage of Artemis-1 is being prepared for thefinal greenrun test, namely actually firing up the engines. A lot is happening in spaceflight, so stay tuned !So now that 2020 is finally over, the young year 2021wants to prove that it can even surpass 2020. However luckily in spaceflight matters, 2021 isgoing to surpass 2020, but in a positive way. But let’s first start with current developments. At SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, south Texas, the big eventwas the successful static fire test of the SN9 prototype. On the 6th of January, the three Raptor enginesfired up for a static fire test. While the test looked good, it turns out that this static fire test wasnoticeably shorter than the previous ones, for example with SN8. Labpadre made an excellent video comparing the three SN8 staticfire tests with the SN9 static fire test from January 6th. So why was the SN9 static fire with 1. 5to 2seconds of duration cut so short?Well it could have been a post ignition abort or it could have been shortenedintentionally in order to avoid damaging the launch pad’s concretesurface, as ChrisB from NASASpaceflightspeculated in this tweet here. Whatever the cause, the next static firetest with SN9 is already scheduled,and there is a very good chance that it has already occuredby the time we release this video here on January 9th. If so, then you can see some awesomestatic fire footage right now. If not, then we are sure it isgoing to happen any time now. Either way, another successful static fire is aprerequisite for the upcoming SN9 test flight. In the latest NOTAM, the flight date currently being targetedis January 10th from 1400 UTC until 2359 UTC. With SN8 we faced quite a few delays, but we are optimisiticthat the SN9 flight won’t see so many delays. And the flight itself will be an exact copy of the SN8 flight, buthopefully this time with a landing that doesn’t end in a fireball. And of course 2021 will be an even moreexciting year at Boca Chica than 2020. So what can we expect in 2021 then?Well, first, many more Starship test-flights,maybe even test flights in tandem,as this interesting exchange between RGVAerialPhotography and Elon hinted at. But of course, the first Super Heavy prototypes will be assembledin 2021, with a testing campaign for the booster prototypes,similar to how we saw them forthe Starship prototypes. And then with any luck, we might see a first orbital launch attemptin late 2021, complete with Super Heavy and Starship. At NASA meanwhile, preparations are ongoing tocomplete the tests of the SLS core stage,which is the very same core stage tobe used for the Artemis-1 mission. This will be the unmanned tesflight of the complete SLS system togetherwith the Orion spacecraft on a roundtrip flight around the Moon,currently scheduled for November 2021. But you know how it is with dates regarding SLS. Let’s formulate it like this: Compared to SLS time, Elon time appearslike an ultra precise and perfect estimate for future events. On December 20th, a wet dress rehearseltest of SLS was conducted,where the core stage was fully loaded up withliquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellant. This was the first time that the propellanttanks were filled with cryogenic fluids. Engineers detected no leaksduring the multi-hour test,but the simulated countdown was automatically stoppedwith four minutes left until the planned hold point. NASA said in a later statement that the countdown was halteddue to “timing on a valve closure. ” Julie Bassler,SLS Stages manager at Marshall Spaceflight said: “During our wet dressrehearsal Green Run test, the core stage, the stage controller,and the Green Run softwareall performed flawlessly,and there were no leaks when the tanks were fully loadedand replenished for approximately two hours. Data from all the tests to date has given us the confidence toproceed with the hot fire. ” So the green run hotfire test,where the rocket will be fully loaded and all engineswill be fired up for a longer duration,complete with every step as in the real lift-off procedure,can start, and is currently scheduled for mid January. And please subscribe to our channel, if you want the latestnews on spaceflight in a non white-washed way. And you can also find our videos over on Odysee. Odysee is a new video site that was created to recapture someof the freedom and independece of the old internet days,away from the corporate favoring ways of youtube. It’s based on the decentralized blockchain technology, so no single entitycan control the publication of videos, as in the case of youtube. Just click the link in video descriptionto follow us over on Odysee. Talking of SLS and the Artemis program, someother cool stuff is going to happen in 2021. Of course Artemis 1 which we mentioned before, but regarding the humanlanding system, NASA will make a choice in March this year,which contender or contenders will continue to work together with NASAin building the next Moon lander that will actually land astronauts onthe surface of the Moon. So the ApolloLunar Module 2. 0 if you will. Currently we have Dynetics, which have in our opinionan excellent Moon lander called Alpaca. Not only is it almost one stage, except for the fuel tanks, which arespent during the landing procedure, then it is really spacious,almost like a habitat module,then it is modular in design,thus allowing it to be transformed into a pressurized roveror to build a small moonbase with a few such modules,and it is really low lying so that astronautscan exit and enter the module very easily. The next one we like to call the Lobby lander,because it’s from the National Team,consisting of the oldschool aerospaceplayers like Lockheed and Northrop. But with the new entrant Blue Origin, who decided that lobbying is betterthan innovation, so they chose to side with these companies. This lander is our least favorite, as it is very complicatedwith a three stage design, has a smaller habitat volume,and a gigantic ladder that doesn’tlook really safe to us. And the last one is of course the lunar version of SpaceX’s Starship,which is together with the Dynetics Alpaca our favorite. It has the largest interior living volume by far,and also by far the largest payload capability. Let’s hope NASA will choose the human landingsystem wisely, and not poorly. “You chose poorly. ” NASA might not be so efficient any moreregarding human spaceflight as compared to the Apollo era,but regarding robotic exploration of thesolar system, they are still king. And lots of robotic explorers willarrive at Mars this year. First, the UAEs Mars Hope orbiter willarrive at Mars on February 9th. The orbiter is going to study the planet’s atmosphere in orderto better understand martian climate and weather phenomena. Then later in February, the chinese probeTianwen-1 is also expected to arrive. It will orbit the planet for a few months, until thelander will descend to the Utopia Planitia region. The Chinese lander also sports a rover, so if successful, China willbe the second nation after the US to manage to land a rover on Mars. And talking of rovers, NASA’s Perseverance rover isalso scheduled to arrive at Mars on February 18th. February will be an excellentmonth for Mars exploration. We talked about the Perseverance roveralready a few times on this channel. It’s very similar in size, weight andarchitecture to the Curiosity rover,but it has some additional science instruments allowing it to betterscan for signs of life, and carries a small flying drone with it. This will be the first time ever that flightwill be performend on another planet. So Mars wise, 2021 will be anincredibly interesting year. And then on October 31st, the James Webb Space Telescopewill finally launch on an Ariane V rocket. This is the successor to the Hubble Space telescope,and with its 6. 5 meter diameter mirror,will have over seven times the light capture capacitythan Hubble with its 2. 4 meter diameter mirror. It’s spectrometer will be sensitive enough to detect gases in exoplanetatmospheres, planets in other starsystems many lightyears away from us. Possibly even allowing us to detect biosignature gases,which can only exist due to the presence of life,or with luck even techno-signature gases, which can only be createdartificially through processes involving technology. So 2021 will also be an exciting yearfor astronomy and astrobiology. Then having just mentioned Ariane V, the Europeans very wellknow that if they want to play any role in the future,they will also have to go fully reusable. To that end, 2021 will see efforts for ESA’s Themis project,that is how their first reusable rocket will be called. We have already a few renderings of the Themis rocket, and theengine, codenamed Prometheus, is already under development. So 2021 will see ongoing efforts towards reusability, and not only inEurope, but also in Russia at Roscosmos with their Amur project,and of course in China with the companies ISpace and LinkSpacebeing most far ahead regarding reusability. And we must go reusable, not only to drive down costs forspaceflight, but also to solve the space debris problem. With full reusability, no new space debriswill hopefully be created one day,thus the number of debris objects in spacewill also start declining again. Regarding China, in 2021,we will see the first module of their space station being launchedon a Long March 5B rocket sometime in the first half of 2021. This main module named Tianhe will be themain habitat module of the station. Two experiment modules will follow in 2022. Then we’ll also see two more flights with Astronautsto the ISS on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon this year,while Boeing’s Starliner will try to fly theirStarliner without crew, in late 2021. Let’s see how that will go. Maybe they willmanage to have fewere bugs this time. Oh, and the commercial lunar era begins in 2021. Intuitive machines for example plans to fly their Nova-C lander to theMoon on a Falcon 9 rocket slated to launch around October this year. It will delover six NASA and six commercial scientific payloadsto the Oceanus Procellarum region of the Moon. Oh, and India will launch the Chandrayaan 3 mission later this year, in orderto make up for the lost Vikram lander of the Chandrayaan 2 mission. Chandrayaan 3 will thus consist only of a lander,and we hope they will succeed this time. If you think commercial payloads to the Moon arenice but you would prefer to have a moonbase,then we have a video where we talked about the Chinese plansto build a moonbase which you can watch right here. So thanks for watching the JS Space reportand I would say on 2 the future!