TWIRL 90: China preps cargo mission to its "Palace in the Sky"

The TWIRL logo in front of the Chinese Space Station

This week we have some interesting launches ahead. Possibly the most interesting will be a Chinese cargo mission to the Chinese Space Station. It comes just a week after China launched its Mengtian module to the station to expand it, giving residents of the “Palace in the Sky” more living space. China also has a pretty mysterious mission on Friday, where it’ll launch an unknown payload.

Tuesday, November 8

The first launch this week will take off at 4 p.m. UTC from Cape Canaveral in Florida. SpaceX will launch a Falson 9 rocket carrying the Galaxy 31 and Galaxy 32 communications for Intelsat. They will be put in a geostationary orbit – which means they'll look fixed to a person on Earth – where they will provide C-band video and TV broadcast services to the United States. You can watch the launch on the SpaceX launches webpage.

Wednesday, November 9

Next, we have United Launch Alliance (ULA) launching an Atlas V rocket carrying the Joint Polar Satellite System 2 (JPSS 2). The JPSS 2 satellite is going to be run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and will monitor the weather from a polar orbit. The flight will include a demonstration of an inflatable heat shield called Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator, also known as LOFTID. This inflatable heat shield could be used to retrieve reusable rocket engines or help deliver heavy cargo to the Red Planet.

The launch should be broadcast on YouTube around the time of launch, which is due at 9:25 a.m. UTC.

Friday, November 11

The third launch of the week is a bit mysterious. At 10:30 p.m. UTC, China will launch a Long March 6A rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The payload is unknown. It’s unlikely this will even be livestreamed, but check it in next week’s recap.

Saturday, November 12

The final launch of the week also comes from China. A Long March 7 rocket will carry the fifth Tianzhou cargo craft to the Chinese Space Station. It’ll be carrying 6.5 tonnes of cargo, which includes two tonnes of propellant. It will also take up a 4U CubeSat CAS-10, which will be deployed in mid-December. This mission will take off from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center at 2:20 a.m. UTC.


The first launch we got last week was a Long March 5B Y4 rocket carrying the Mengtian module to the Chinese Space Station, you can see footage of the launch below.

A couple of days later, after docking, those aboard the Chinese Space Station entered the Mengtian module.

A day after Mengtian launched, SpaceX launched the USSF-44 mission, which saw a Falcon Heavy launch from Florida.

Next, SpaceX used a Falcon 9 rocket to launch the Eutelsat Hotbird 13G comms satellite.

On November 4, Rocket Lab launched an Electron Rocket carrying the MATS satellite for the Swedish space agency. The satellite will investigate atmospheric waves.

Finally, China launched a Long March 3B carrying the ChinaSat 19 satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The satellite will be used for communications.

That’s all we’ve got this time, check back next week!

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