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Space News: SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, European Space Agency and Rocket Cars?!

By Cje95 | Texas Living | 24 May 2021


SpaceX 

Falcon Heavy Delayed

Well SpaceX was geared up and ready to go but the same cannot be said for the US military. The US Space forces first Falcon Heavy launch known as USSF-44 has been pushed back several months. Initially set to launch in July the attempt has been pushed to October due to "payload readiness". In regulars talk that just means that the satellite was not ready yet. Since this satellite has already been delayed from April it would seem that the COVID lockdowns last year messed up with the development and construction of the satellite. 

 

This satellite is supposed to operate in geostationary orbit which is on the higher side of where satellites orbit. It was also announced that the second Falcon Heavy launch has also slipped. This one was originally set to launch in June but then it was moved to October. Now while October was not ruled out 2022 was listed as another option so it is facing some sort of delay also.

 

Lunar Lander Selection

Well NASA is not the only one dishing out Lunar lander contacts! Firefly Aerospace recently announced that it has selected SpaceX to launch its first lunar lander mission to the moon. Ironically enough Firefly is doing this on behalf of NASA! Firefly is developing its own launch vehicle however the one under development is not powerful enough for a moon mission.

 

The lander is currently under construction and is not due to be launched until 2023. This lander will be carrying not only NASA payloads but also those of other companies/institutions. Firefly is a contract winner of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services or (CLPS) program. Another bit or irony is that SpaceX has won 5 of the 6 CLPS contracts so far. United Launch Alliances Vulcan rocket will actually will carry one for its inaugural flight! 

 

Virgin Galactic

After two years of waiting and its stock price getting absolutely killed due to Blue Origins huge advances Virgin Galactic reached space again with another test flight! While you might think of a rocket as something that launches vertically that is not the case for Virgin Galactic. They use a interesting plane that kind of looks like two are merged together to take off. Once they reach 44,000 feet the spacecraft named VSS Unity detaches from the carrier vehicle named VMS Eve. 

 

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The carrier vehicle VMS Eve

 

VSS Unity fires its rocket engine shortly after launching on its third spaceflight on May 22, 2021.

The space vehicle VSS Unity 

 

Once released it fires it rocket engine and reached this time 89.2 kilometers into the air or about 293,000 feet. The VSS Unity then lands much like how the Space Shuttles did on a runway! The crazy thing is that it had taken off from the very same runway! This successful test could possibly contribute to the two remaining FAA milestones it needs to clear to receive key licenses for conducting regular spaceflights. These launches will occur out of Spaceport USA in New Mexico. Long used as an example of the government subsidizing companies unnecessarily Virgin Galactic could be the first of many that use the Spaceport! 

 

European Competition for SpaceX and Rocket Lab

A couple of months ago I wrote about how Europe was freaking out a little bit about SpaceX and its ability to reuse rockets which if you would like you can find here. Well to combat this issue that they faced from not only SpaceX but now Rocket Lab they made some big investments. The European Space Agency operates much differently from NASA and how the US builds things in general. 

 

What did the ESA do? Well they signed brand new contracts for continued development of its Phoebus upper stage and Prometheus rocket engine. Europe does not want to be left behind in this reusability race as they currently are. What is different about these contracts though is that SpaceX and Rocket Lab are private companies that are funding a lot of their own research and design where as the ESA is operating much how NASA used to doing everything in house. Even with the additional $165 million given to Prometheus the first stage will not be ready to be reused until 2023. The 2023 date though is deceptive because it is when they are expecting to begin loop testing it. The first full flight will not be until 2025 and these are the types of launches that SpaceX and Rocket Lab have worked to perfect. 

The ESA's plan with Themis.

 

Tesla's Roadsters SpaceX Package

Three years ago Tesla reveled it would have a second generation Roadster. With this second generation though came an absolutly crazy idea that I really though was a joke. A Tesla Roadster with...... rocket thrusters. Now more has come out about it and I wont lie even though it was an electric car I was hoping the thrusters would shoot fire but it seems it will actually use cold air thrusters to boost it off the line. How fast can this car go 0-60 you might wonder? 1.1 seconds. Well at least that is what they are saying but holy cow is that fast. It will be intersting to see how this plays out as more comes out about the car.

 

If you were wondering on getting on by the way they start at $200,000 and the first version will be the Founders Edition of which only 1,000 will be made and these have a base of $250,000. As to be expected it wont be cheap and I cant even find if the Founders Edition comes with the SpaceX package or not. This car though is not expected to arrive until late 2021 or early 2022 with the 2022 model year being the first produced. 

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Cje95
Cje95

Graduated from Texas A&M in May of 2020 had dabbled in crypto since 2017 but dove in at the end of 2019. December of 2020 packed up and moved to D.C.! Huge sports fan, space nerd, and international newsreader! Follow me on Twitter @Cje95_


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