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TWIRL 40: NASA to launch its first planetary defence test mission
by Paul Hill
We’ve got five launches set to take place this week from various locations including China, America and Kazakhstan. The most interesting mission comes from NASA which will have SpaceX launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) probe which will impact an asteroid called Dimorphos next year. NASA is pitching the mission as its first planetary defence test mission as a similar technique could stop asteroids striking the Earth in the future.
Monday, November 22
The first launch of the week takes place on Monday at 10:44 p.m. UTC at China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. A Long March CZ-2C rocket topped with the YZ-1S upper stage will launch a payload. It’s unclear what the payload for the mission is but we might know by the time of the recap in TWIRL 41.
Wednesday, November 24
The second mission of the week is the launch of the DART probe that was mentioned at the top of the article. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will carry the probe out of Earth’s gravity before it sets a course for asteroid 65803 Didymos. The asteroid is a binary asteroid which means it has a satellite orbiting it – this satellite is known as Dimorphos and will be DART’s impact target. As things stand, the impact is due to take place on September 30, 2022, but variables cause the schedule to shift.
The DART mission doesn’t carry any scientific payloads, just a camera called DRACO which will help to target the Didymos system. An interesting aspect of this mission is the inclusion of the NEXT-C ion engine. Compared to other ion engines, NEXT-C is described as having improved performance, thrust, and fuel efficiency. Though not the primary propulsion system on DART, NEXT-C will demonstrate its potential for use in other deep-space missions. This mission will launch at 6:20 a.m. UTC and will be available from NASA’s and SpaceX’s live streams on their websites.
The third launch of the week also takes off on Wednesday but this time at 1:06 p.m. UTC from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This time a Soyuz 2.1b rocket will launch a modified Progress spacecraft with the UM node module to the International Space Station. UM is short of Uzlovoy Module and has the designation Prichal. It will be added to the ISS and provide four ports to mount additional modules and an additional docking port for cargo and crew spacecraft.
The third and final launch on Wednesday takes place at 4 p.m. UTC from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Again secretive, a Chinese Long March CZ-3B rocket will carry an unknown payload into orbit.
Thursday, November 25
The fifth and final mission of the week comes from Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 1:09 a.m. UTC. A Soyuz 2.1b with a Fregat-M upper stage will launch EKS 5, a component of Russia’s new unified missile early warning network. The Edinaya Kosmicheskaya Sistema (EKS) system will be able to detect ballistic missiles launched from the ground or sea as well as some cruise missiles. The satellite will also be able to work out the flight path of missiles and relay data back to ground stations for more accurate tracking.
The first launch last week took place on November 16 from French Guiana when a Vega rocket launched CERES 1, 2, and 3 for the French military. The satellites will be used for signals intelligence.
The second launch took place on November 18 from New Zealand. Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket as part of the ‘Love At First Insight’ mission which orbited two BlackSky satellites.
Next up we had a launch in the early hours (UTC) of November 20 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China. A Long March 4-B rocket launched the Gaofen-11 03 Earth observation satellite. The satellite will perform various tasks to improve economic and social developments.
The final launch also took place today but a bit later than the last mission a 6:16 a.m. UTC. Astra Space launched Rocket 3.3 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska. The mission carried a test payload to measure the launch environment of the rocket for the US Space Force.
NASA plans to launch Artemis I lunar test mission in February 2022
by Chandrakant Isi
Named after Apollo's twin sister Artemis, NASA's lunar mission is getting ready for its first uncrewed test flight. As per the American space agency, the Orion space capsule has been stacked up with the SLS rocket and is ready for pre-launch tests for the next few weeks.
The process will include a health and status check of various systems and communication lines between the spacecraft and ground control. Moreover, there will be procedures to ensure the functionality of different systems including core stage and boosters. As a standard protocol, NASA will also run a countdown sequencing simulation.
Wet Dress Rehearsal will be quite crucial for the mission. Before you get any ideas, 'wet' refers to the loading up of supercold liquid propellants into the rockets. The team at NASA will also practice its ability to scrub the launch.
It is only after the successful completion of the wet dress rehearsal, the American space agency will reveal the actual launch date for the Artemis I test mission. For now, NASA is aiming to get things up and running for the February 2022 launch window.
The Artemis mission will enable NASA to return to the Moon. The US had successfully landed its crewed Apollo 11 mission on Earth's natural satellite in 1969. It was followed by six more missions counting up to Apollo 17. All of which made a successful lunar landing save for the number 13, which had to return to the Earth due to malfunction in the Oxygen tank module.
This time around, the idea is to build the infrastructure required for long-term missions including the base camp on the lunar surface. The US will also establish the Gateway in lunar orbit, which will serve as a communication hub and space lab. This will be crucial considering that the International Space Station (ISS) is likely to retire in 2024 with a possible life extension till the end of this decade.
The expertise from the lunar base camp will come in handy for humanity's future plans of setting up human colonies on the red planet.
TWIRL 36: Crew-3 Dragon set to take astronauts to ISS
by Paul Hill
Background image via NASA Kennedy In the upcoming week, we are due to see two launches to the International Space Station, which is a tiny bit unusual. The first mission to the ISS will come from Russia and this will just be a cargo mission but the second and more interesting launch will come from SpaceX which is launching Crew-3 Dragon with several astronauts aboard.
Monday, October 25
The first launch of the week is ExPace’s Kuaizhou KZ-1A rocket which is launching the Jilin Gaofen 2F satellite. This launch was mentioned in the last edition of TWIRL but the October 22 launch was scrubbed and rescheduled for October 25. The new satellite will join the Jilin 1 Earth observation constellation and snap full-colour resolution images better than 0.76 metres over an area of 40 km.
Tuesday, October 26
The second launch of the week will be a Japanese H-IIA (H-2A) rocket with the designation F44. It will be carrying a navigation satellite called QZS 1R into a geosynchronous orbit for the Japanese space agency, JAXA. The mission is due for launch around 2:00 a.m. UTC and will be livestreamed on YouTube for those who want to watch.
Thursday, October 28
At midnight UTC on October 28, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, will launch a Soyuz 2.1a rocket to the International Space Station carrying the 79th Progress cargo delivery. The cargo aboard will include propellant and pressurised gases, food, water and other equipment. All this cargo will weigh 2,550 kg. The event should be streamed on YouTube, but if not, check out next week’s TWIRL recap for footage.
Sunday, October 31
The final launch and most exciting launch of the week is from SpaceX. A Falcon 9 rocket will carry the Crew-3 Dragon capsule up to space where it will head to the International Space Station. This mission will be carrying NASA’s Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron as well as ESA’s Matthias Maurer. The launch is scheduled for 6:21 a.m. UTC and should be available on SpaceX’s YouTube channel.
In the last week, actress Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko returned to Earth. In the video below you can see them saying goodbye to those aboard the ISS.
Below you can see their craft land back on Earth and their exit onto land.
South Korea’s Nuri test flight also took place on Thursday, you can see footage of that below.
Two more launches are scheduled for Sunday, October 24. This post will be updated when footage of those become available.
TWIRL 34: William Shatner prepares himself to go to space for real [Update]
by Paul Hill
It has not been long since the last crew to the Chinese Space Station returned to Earth but now three more taikonauts are preparing to go aboard. Also this week, NASA is launching its Lucy spacecraft to visit some of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids and Blue Origin will be launching its second crewed New Shepard mission which will be carrying William Shatner, famous for playing Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series, among others.
Tuesday, October 12
The first launch of the week will come on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. UTC. Blue Origin will launch its New Shepard suborbital rocket from the West Texas suborbital Launch Site. It’s the second crewed mission that the rocket will perform and its crew will consist of William Shatner, Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries and Audrey Powers. As the craft is only capable of suborbital flights so their mission to space will be quite brief but they will experience low gravity.
Thursday, October 14
At 9:40 a.m. UTC a Soyuz 2.1b rocket carrying OneWeb internet satellites will take off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. There will be 36 satellites aboard which will work in conjunction with the rest of the OneWeb constellation. OneWeb beams internet back down to Earth helping customers get online in hard to connect areas.
Friday, October 15
At 4:24 p.m. UTC, China will launch a Long March rocket carrying Shenzhou 13 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Aboard will be three taikonauts, Zhai Zhigang (the first Chinese citizen to perform a spacewalk), Wang Yaping (the second Chinese woman in space) and Ye Guangfu. This is China’s eighth crewed space mission and the second to the Chinese Space Station since it began operations earlier this year. For a couple of days, the number of people in space will reach 12, which is higher than average.
Saturday, October 16
The final launch of the week will be exciting; an Atlas V rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral carrying NASA’s Lucy spacecraft which will head out past Mars, past the Asteroid Belt out to Jupiter where it will explore the gas giant’s Trojan asteroids. These asteroids orbit the Sun in front of and behind Jupiter and are quite unique making them of interest to the space agency. The mission will last about 12 years.
The craft was named Lucy after a hominin skeleton because these Trojan asteroids could be the ‘fossils of planet formation’ that give us a better understanding of how our and other star systems develop.
The only launch last week was the Soyuz rocket carrying an all-Russian crew to the International Space Station. You can see the launch below.
The crew also docked with the ISS, you can see footage below.
Update: Shatner's flight has now been delayed due to winds and will instead launch on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. UTC.
TWIRL 32: NASA preparing to launch Landsat 9 to observe Earth
by Paul Hill
We have several launches coming up over the next week. All of the missions on the schedule this week are satellite launches and among them the most interesting is NASA’s Landsat 9, an Earth observation satellite. The Landsat program currently has two satellites in orbit, Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 which launched in 1999 and 2013 respectively. The Landsat program itself has been up and running since July 1972.
Monday, September 27
The first launch of the week is ExPace’s Kuaizhou KZ-1A rocket carrying the Jilin Gaofen 2D satellite to Earth orbit. The launch is scheduled to take off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 6:17 a.m. UTC. If you remember us covering this launch before, it’s because we have; this year, it has been pushed back from March, April, and September 25. It will take full-colour images with a resolution of 0.76 metres over 40 kilometres.
The second launch of the day also take place in China but this time at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The launch of the Long March CZ-3B/E Is scheduled for an 8:15 a.m. UTC launch but it’s not clear what payload will be aboard. It’s rumoured that it could be launching a new generation of BeiDou (navigation) satellite.
The third launch of the day takes place at 6:11 p.m. UTC from Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 3. An Atlas V 401 rocket will carry the Landsat 9 satellite and several CubeSats into orbit. As mentioned earlier, the Landsat program started in 1972 and has tracked the growth of cities over that time, the changing climate, and how land is used for agriculture and infrastructure.
The Landsat 9 satellite will be put into a polar orbit 705 kilometres above the Earth where it will survey the planet every 16 days. Images will cover 185km and each pixel will be 30 metres across. The satellite has been designed to last for five years but actually has enough fuel for the mission to go on for a decade or more.
Friday, October 1
The final mission of the week will take off from Uchinoura Space Center in Japan. An Epsilon rocket will be carrying the RAISE 2 satellite and several MicroSats. RAISE 2 is a demonstration satellite used for testing new technology in space. Among the MicroSats is the Debris Removal Unprecedented Micro-Satellite which will demonstrate technologies that future satellites need to remove the growing amount of space debris from orbit.
The exciting launch last week was that of the Tianzhou-3 module which was going to join on to the Chinese Space Station making station larger. The mission went ahead without a hitch, here’s the launch.
And here’s the Tianzhou-3 docking.
While three launches were scheduled last week, it looks like the Tianzhou-3 mission was the only one to get off the ground, so that’s all for this week’s recap.