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TWIRL 33: Russian film director and actress set for a week in space to make a movie
by Paul Hill
The near-empty launch schedule this week is set to be compensated for with the launch of a film director and an actress into space. Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov will fly film director Klim Shipenko and actress Yulia Peresild to the International Space Station where the latter two will spend a week to film a movie in space, which is the first time this has been done. The Russian title for the film will be Вызов (Vyzov) if you want to look out for it when it's released – that title translates to English as The Challenge.
Those involved with the feature-length film will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Tuesday, October 5 at 9:55 a.m. UTC aboard Soyuz MS-19. They are set to return to Earth a little over a week later on October 17 aboard Soyuz MS-18. Commander Oleg Novitsky will lead their ride back to Earth while Pyotr Dubrov and Mark Vande Hei will stay aboard the ISS for a while longer and eventually return back to Earth with Shkaplerov.
The film’s director Klim Shipenko is no stranger to making films set in space. In 2017, a film he directed called Salyut 7 was released. The film is a dramatisation of events that took place during the Soyuz T-13 mission to repair the Salyut 7 space station which had essentially died due to an issue with its solar array. The mission to restore power to Salyut 7 was a success.
The first launch of the week lifted off on Monday morning (UTC) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China. A Kuaizhou-1A rocket launched a Gaofen satellite for the Jilin-1 constellation which will perform remote sensing work that should benefit agriculture, forestry and more.
Also on Monday, the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket carrying the Landsat 9 satellite took off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The Landsat 9 is part of the Landsat programme which has been operating since the 1970s. The satellite will perform Earth observation work.
Next, we've got the SpaceX CRS-23 Dragon undocked from the ISS on Thursday. It was not carrying any crew members back to Earth and had not taken any people to the space station. The mission has brought cargo up to the ISS for those aboard.
While not a rocket launch, the BepiColombo satellite sent back its first pictures of Mercury. Hopefully, in the coming days and weeks, we will be able to see even greater shots of the Sun’s nearest planetary body.
TWIRL 29: China set to dominate launch schedule this week
by Paul Hill
The upcoming week won’t see any really exciting launches, just run-of-the-mill satellite launches. Interestingly, all the launches with a definite launch window will be launching from China. Launch sites seeing action this week include the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, and the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
Monday, September 6
The first launch of the week will see a Long March CZ-4C rocket carry the Gaofen 5-02 hyperspectral Earth-imaging satellite into orbit where it will make up part of the CHEOS constellation. The satellite will be carrying a number of scientific instruments that will allow it to perform atmospheric sensing to measure things like greenhouse gas emissions, trace gases and other atmospheric properties. This mission will launch from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.
Thursday, September 9
The second launch of the week will take place at 11 a.m. UTC from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. A Long March CZ-3B/E rocket will carry the Zhongxing 9B satellite into orbit. The satellite will provide various services such as TV and radio in China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. The lifespan of the satellite is 15 years and it’ll support or replace the Zhongxing 9A satellite which used too much fuel trying to correct its position.
Sunday, September 12
The final launch of the week is due to take place from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. A Long March CZ-2C rocket will be carrying two Yaogan satellites for the military. It’s unclear what the purpose of these satellites is.
Last Sunday, SpaceX’s CRS-23 mission managed to lift off following an earlier aborted launch.
Not long after launch, the CRS-23 Dragon docked with the space station. It was carrying operational cargo for those aboard the ISS.
The other rocket launch this week was Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket which was performing its maiden flight. Unfortunately, the craft exploded not long after launch, destroying the numerous payloads that were aboard. The launch failure was put down to ‘an anomaly’.
TWIRL 25: SpaceX getting closer to Starship orbital mission
by Paul Hill
Before we get onto next weeks launches, it's worth mentioning that SpaceX just took another big step with its Starship rocket yesterday. While no launches were performed as we’ve seen in the last couple of months, the company did finally stack the upper stage, called Starship, to the lower stage dubbed Super Heavy.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk posted images of the rocket at various stages throughout the stacking process and none of them really allow you to appreciate just how tall the rocket stands. Once stacked, Starship stands at around 120 metres which is taller than the 111 metre Saturn V rocket which NASA used to send men to the Moon decades ago.
Tuesday, August 10
This week, there are just two launches. The first takes place on Tuesday at 9:56 p.m. UTC from Wallops Island, Virginia. A Northrop Grumman Antares 230+ will launch a Cygnus spacecraft, once in space, Cygnus, which will be carrying operational cargo, will make its way to the International Space Station. The launch should be available on NASA’s YouTube livestream.
Thursday, August 12
The second and final launch of the week is the GSLV Mk.II rocket carrying Earth Observation Satellite 3 (EOS 3) into orbit. We have mentioned this mission several times in the past but it has suffered several delays. The satellites will be in geostationary orbit over the Indian subcontinent and will monitor natural hazards and disasters that will be able to assist government responses to incidents. You can learn more about the mission over on the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) website.
Last week were expecting United Launch Alliance to send up the Starliner spacecraft but this launch was delayed even though the rocket was put in place on the launchpad.
A Long March 6 rocket delivering two KL microsats into orbit for the Shanghai Engineering Center was also launched. These geostationary satellites will help test laser communications, electric thruster technology, and new interference suppression technology for Ka-band mobile communication satellites.
A Long March 3B successfully launched the Zhongxing 2E satellite which will be used for military communications.
Finally, NASA performed another test of the Space Launch System’s RS-25 engine.
TWIRL 24: United Launch Alliance to send CST-100 Starliner to the ISS
by Paul Hill
Following several weeks of billionaires launching themselves into space, we have a quieter week with just two confirmed launches. The first launch comes from the United Launch Alliance which will send its CST-100 Starliner on an uncrewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and the launch of a communications satellite called Zhongxing 2E from China.
Tuesday, August 3
The first launch of the week comes from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) where an Atlas V rocket will launch the second CST-100 Starliner on a second uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) to the ISS as part of NASA’s commercial crew program. While the craft won’t be delivering humans to the ISS, it will be carrying 345kg of cargo for the astronauts already aboard. The CST-100 Starliner is expected to stay in space for five to 10 days before making its way back to Earth where it’s due to land in the Western United States. ULA did attempt this launch last Friday but it seems to have been delayed, the live stream link for the event remains the same as last week. The launch is expected at 5:20 p.m. UTC.
Friday, August 6
One of China’s Long March CZ-3B/E is set to launch the Zhongxing 2E communications satellite into orbit on Friday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The technical details of this satellite are not known but its relation to other satellites suggests that it will be able to deliver secure voice and data communications to ground terminals. It could also feature advanced multiple steerable spot beam antenna technology so that ground users can communicate while they’re on the go. A stream for this launch isn’t likely. Its launch is slated for 3:00 p.m. UTC.
We were treated to several launches last week, the first was a Long March 2D carrying the Tianhui 1D satellite for the Hangtian Dongfanghond Weixing Corporation and the Chinese Academy of Space Technology for performing remote image sensing.
The second launch was a Rocket Lab Electron rocket carrying the Monolith satellite for the United States Space Force (USSF) Space Test Program (STP). The mission was called ‘It’s a Little Chile Up Here’.
The final launch was an Ariane 5 ECA+ carrying the Star One D2 and Eutelsat Quantum communications into orbit. The Star One D2 satellite is owned by Embratel Star One, a Brazilian telecoms firm. The satellite will deliver telecommunications, direct-to-home television services, and fast broadband across parts of the Americas.
TWIRL 19: SpaceX set to launch Transporter-2 satellite mission
by Paul Hill
In the upcoming week, SpaceX is expected to launch its Transporter-2 mission carrying several satellites as part of a rideshare. Roscosmos plans to launch the Progress MS-17 mission which will deliver cargo to the International Space Station, and a Starsem Soyuz rocket will try to orbit 36 OneWeb internet satellites
Tuesday, June 29
The first mission of the week will come from SpaceX with its Transporter-2 rideshare mission. A Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket will launch several payloads to Sun-synchronous orbit. 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 also mentioned in last week’s TWIRL installment with the launch date set at June 25 but it looks like that slipped.
Wednesday, June 30
Roscosmos will be launching its trusty Soyuz 2.1a rocket in the early hours (local time) on Wednesday carrying the Progress MS-17 mission. This is the 78th Progress cargo delivery ship heading for the International Space Station. It will remain connected to the space station acting as an expansion of the Russian Orbital Segment for around 179 days before being undocked. Following the launch, Progress MS-17 will spend 3 hours and 20 minutes getting to the space station before it automatically docks.
Thursday, July 1
On Thursday, the private company, Starsem, will launch a Soyuz 2.1b rocket carrying 36 OneWeb internet satellites. Similarly to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, the OneWeb constellation can beam internet connectivity back down to the planet. One instance where OneWeb’s satellites will be used will be on airplanes following a deal the firm made with SatixFy. The Canadian military will also benefit from the satellites following a deal OneWeb made with ROCK Networks which serves the Canadian military.
It’s was a bit quiet last week in terms of actual rocket launches but the Pion-NKS 1 satellite managed to launch successfully.