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TWIRL 18: SpaceX to deliver missions to Sun-synchronous orbit
by Paul Hill
Following an exciting week where we saw three Chinese astronauts arrive at their space station for the first time, we have a less certain week ahead. There could be eight rocket launches in the upcoming week, however, only two of these missions have a definite launch time, the rest are listed as No Earlier Than. If these missions don’t launch, next week could be pretty quiet.
Monday, June 21
The first mission that could take off on Monday is Rocket Lab’s STP-27RM mission. The customer for this mission is the U.S. Air Force which is having its Monolith satellite launched, equipped with a space weather instrument, atop an Electron rocket. It’s expected that this mission will demonstrate the ability of small satellites to carry large aperture payloads. It will launch from Launch Complex 2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Wallops Island, Virginia.
The second launch of the day will be an Iranian Zoljanah rocket carrying the Nahid 1R satellite into a geosynchronous orbit. The rocket will take off from the Imam Khomeini Space Launch Center in Semnan. This mission was delayed from March. It's also marked as No Earlier Than so it may not take off on Monday.
Wednesday, June 23
The third mission of the week comes from Virgin Orbit and is also marked as No Earlier Than. This STP-27VPA mission will see the LauncherOne rocket perform an air-launch from a Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl. It will carry six CubeSats into orbit for the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program, the Dutch military, and SatRevolution. The U.S. Air Force has three CubeSats launching as part of the DoD’s Space Test Program’s Rapid Agile Launch (RALI) initiative, the Netherlands’ satellite is a military satellite called BRIK II, and SatRevolution’s satellites are called STORK 4 and STORK 5, and make up an optical satellite constellation.
Friday, June 25
Friday has the potential to be the busiest launch day, however, three of the five launches are marked as No Earlier Than.
The first launch on Friday is that of Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket will be carrying commercial payloads for Benchmark Space Systems and AstroGrams. The mission will also deploy a Spinnaker 3 dragsail prototype. In its first launch, the Alpha rocket will carry several projects from the Dedicated Research and Education Accelerator Mission (DREAM) programme which gives students and small companies a way to put their payloads in space. It is marked as No Earlier Than.
Next up we have a Rocket Lab Electron rocket carrying two BlackSky satellites. They will join the BlackSky constellation which can produce 1000 images per day as still or as videos. Each satellite has a lifespan of three years and the full constellation should consist of 60 satellites.
The final No Earlier Than mission on Friday is India’s GSLV-F10 mission which will launch the EOS 3 satellite for India’s space agency, ISRO. EOS 3 will provide continuous remote sensing observations over India from a geostationary orbit.
On Friday, a Roscosmos Soyuz 2.1b will launch the Pion-NKS 1 satellite for the Russian military. It is described as an electronic intelligence-gathering satellite. Pion-NKS 1 is a new type of reconnaissance satellite that will be used for naval surveillance.
The final mission is SpaceX’s Transporter-2. A Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket will launch several payloads to Sun-synchronous orbit as part of the rideshare mission. Aboard will be the Kleos Polar Vigilance Mission consisting of four satellites, at least four NuSats for Satellogic, YAM 3, Mars Demo 1, and a Vigoride CubeSate carrier with Skycraft, TROPICS Pathfinder, Sen EarthTV, and IRIS-A. This mission was moved forward from July but delayed from June 24.
The first mission we mentioned last week was Northrop Grumman’s Minotaur I rocket carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. This launch successfully went ahead.
The exciting mission last week was the one carrying Chinese astronauts to the Chinese Space Station. Just hours after launch, they arrived at the space station. You can see clips from their arrival below.
Three Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellites were also launched from China earlier in the week. You can see the launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center below.
TWIRL 17: China to send first taikonauts to the Chinese Space Station
by Paul Hill
You could call last week’s quietness the calm before the storm because the upcoming week is set to be very exciting! On Thursday morning (UTC), China will launch the Shenzhou 12 atop a Long March rocket carrying the first three taikonauts – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo – to the new Chinese Space Station.
Tuesday, June 15
The first launch of the week is scheduled to take place on Tuesday at 11 a.m. (UTC) from Wallops Island Launch Pad in Virginia, U.S. Northrop Grumman will be launching a Minotaur I rocket carrying a classified mission belonging to the National Reconnaissance Office. While details of this launch are quite scarce given its classified nature, the mission allegedly consists of three satellites. If you want to see the launch, there is a pre-event video on YouTube where you can set a reminder for when the event begins.
Thursday, June 17
The first launch on Thursday will be that of the Long March 2F/G carrying the Shenzhou 12 spacecraft manned by three taikonauts. The launch is slated for 1:17 a.m. (UTC) and will take off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo will be aboard and will be the first crew of the Chinese Space Station. After this crew launches, there will be a total of ten people in space.
The other launch scheduled for Thursday at 4:09 p.m. (UTC) is that of a SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket which will be carrying the U.S. Air Force’s fifth 3rd generation navigation satellite for GPS. The new satellites provide better system security, accuracy, and reliability; they are all expected to have a lifespan of 15 years.
Friday, June 18
On Friday, a Long March CZ-2C rocket is expected to launch three satellites with the designation Yaogan 30 Group 09 which will perform electromagnetic detection and perform technical tests. It’s not clear what the overall mission for the satellites is but they may be used for signal intelligence purposes.
Sunday, June 20
The end of the week has two launches marked as ‘no earlier than’ which means they may not actually launch this week. The two launches include Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket which is set to make its maiden flight from Vandenberg AFB with several commercial payloads including the Spinnaker 3 dragsail prototype. The second launch is of India’s GSLV-F10 mission which will launch the EOS 3 satellite for India’s space agency, ISRO. EOS 3 will provide continuous remote sensing observations over India from a geostationary orbit.
While there were not many launches last week, there was an interesting astronomical event visible from some parts of the world – a solar eclipse! You can see footage of that below:
AMD's RDNA 2 technology will deliver 10 TFLOPS in Tesla cars for high-end gaming
by João Carrasqueira
AMD made some major announcements during its Computex keynote, including new laptop GPUs, new desktop APUs, and the long-awaited availability of FidelityFX Super Resolution, a technology similar to Nvidia's DLSS. But some announcements were mentioned so briefly they might have flown under the radar, like the fact that AMD GPUs are coming to Tesla's new Model S and Model X cars.
During its keynote, AMD said that the gaming system inside Tesla's electric vehicles will combine an AMD Ryzen Embedded APU for general compute tasks with an RDNA 2-based GPU for AAA gaming. Specifically, the company promised 10 TFLOPS of graphics processing power for the GPU inside the gaming system, which is almost on par with Sony's PlayStation 5 - though it's likely fair to expect CPU performance to be lower than that. Alleged performance details of this system were actually leaked earlier this year, but AMD didn't dive deep into them.
Unfortunately, it didn't mention any specific games you'll be able to play in your car though an image shown during the presentation showed The Witcher III: Wild Hunt on the vehicle's display. Even before this announcement, Tesla has already dipped its toes into gaming, with some titles already available, including popular games like Cuphead.
AMD also reiterated during the presentation that it's working with Samsung to bring RDNA 2-based graphics to the company's Exynos mobile chipsets. Samsung itself had confirmed this already, but AMD specifically mentioned support for ray tracing and variable rate shading during its presentation, which will be interesting to see. We should expect to hear more specific announcements from Samsung later this year.
Germany could subsidise internet satellite receiver dishes for customers
by Paul Hill
Germany could help citizens in rural areas to buy receiver dishes for internet satellite services like Starlink, according to a report in Reuters. As things stand, the government is still fleshing out the details of a voucher scheme that would help customers get their homes kitted out with receiver dishes or any other technical equipment they need.
While the German government is looking to subsidise the technical equipment, it has said that customers in the rural areas of the country will still have to pay the monthly fee that’s part of their contract with the internet provider. Receiving internet connectivity from space does not come cheap, SpaceX’s Starlink, for example, costs €99 per month.
The subsidy that the government is looking into could save customers around $499. A Starlink kit includes a terminal to connect to the satellite network, a Wi-Fi router, and a mounting tripod. While quite expensive, the government has probably found that this is the cheapest option to connect people in remote areas.
In the UK, the government is spending £5 billion to upgrade rural broadband connections to gigabit speeds by 2025. The government is paying the bill because it doesn’t make economic sense for broadband providers to pay money to lay down the infrastructure just for the relatively few customers the hardware would serve. By subsidising the costs of satellite broadband, the German government is trying to meet similar ends as the UK government.
By Stergios Georgopoulos
Elon Musk confirms first SpaceX ocean spaceport is under construction
by Stergios Georgopoulos
Last year, SpaceX announced plans to build floating spaceports for space travel and hypersonic flights around the Earth. The floating launchpads, built on refurbished oil platforms, will serve as a launch and landing platform for the Starship rocket, a spacecraft that the company intends to use to fly astronauts to the Moon, as well as for the exploration and habitation of Mars in the coming years.
On Sunday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that Deimos, the first of the two platforms, is under construction and is expected to become operational next year. Both launchpads, the other one being Phobos, are named after Mars’ moons. The tweet was in response to a fan, who shared a rendered concept image of the offshore spaceport.
Earlier this month, the company performed a successful soft landing of the latest iteration of Starship, dubbed SN15, for the first time. Previous tests of older prototypes all saw the spacecraft blow up at landing and had varying degrees of success.