Launch Report – Northrop Grumman is preparing the first Cygnus to fly on the Falcon 9

Launch Report – Northrop Grumman is preparing the first Cygnus to fly on the Falcon 9

Recent challenges related to weather concerns and major flight traffic such as USSF-52 and Axiom-3 have impacted Falcon 9 launch dates, not least Starlink Group 7-11 which has been surveyed three times and is now awaiting launch on Tuesday.

SpaceX had two drone ships and two repair ships in port for maintenance last week, and is looking to launch nine Falcon 9 aircraft by the end of this month. This is slightly short of the target of 12 flights per month to achieve its ambitious target of 144 flights this year, but there is plenty of time to pick up the pace.

With Starlink Group 6-38 added late last week to the schedule from LC-39A, the final Falcon 9 launch of the month will likely take place the following day on January 29 from the adjacent LC-40 pad. This important launch is for the NG-20 cargo mission, and is the first time a Cygnus spacecraft has flown on this launcher. This is the first of three missions purchased with SpaceX to fulfill Northrop Grumman’s Phase 2 contract to supply the International Space Station (ISS) until the new Antares 330 vehicle is operational.

Northrop Grumman is currently preparing the Cygnus cargo module for launch. On board will be several experiments including 3D printing of metal and semiconductor parts in microgravity, remote-controlled robotic surgery, and three new capsules that will collect data on different heat shields as they reenter the atmosphere.

Next week will also see Virgin Galactic send into the VSS Unity suborbital with four other paying customers. This will likely be the penultimate flight before operations cease and the company turns its attention to developing and testing its new Delta-class vehicle.

Rocket Lab’s Electron company will launch four space situational awareness satellites for its Spire customer that will provide critical and timely data for the first time to the satellite community including orbit tracking, collision avoidance and proximity warnings.

Kinetic 1 | The third trip

The Lijian 1 rocket, also known as Kinetica 1, was successfully launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China on January 23 at 04:03 UTC.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), a four-stage solid-fueled light launch vehicle, has developed a first stage that appears to be derived from the DF-31 long-range intercontinental ballistic missile. It is capable of placing about 2,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The payload is currently understood to be five observation satellites built by Minospace destined for sun-synchronous orbit. They are identified as Taijing-1-03, 2-02, 2-04, 3-02, and 4-03.

VSS Unity after Galactic 05 mission (Image source: Jack Beyer, NSF)

VSS Unity after Galactic Mission 05. (Credit: Jack Baer for NSF)

SpaceX Falcon 9 | Starlink 7-11

Starlink 7-11 was scheduled to launch on January 18 at 8:04 PM PT (04:04 UTC on January 19) from SLC-4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base but SpaceX halted the launch for undisclosed reasons. The launch has been rescheduled for Friday, January 19 at 6:15 PM PT (02:15 UTC January 20).

However, the launch was canceled at T-59 seconds, just after the Falcon 9’s computers took control of the countdown, in what is known as a power-up. The booster for this flight is B1063-16, and you will land on it Of course I still love you In the Pacific Ocean when you fly. Another attempt is scheduled for Tuesday, January 23 at 4:35 PM PST (00:35 UTC January 24).

B1063 was first launched on 21 November 2020, with the launch of Sentinel-6A Michael Freilich, and has also flown Starlink V1 L28, DART, and Starlink 4-11 and 4-13. 3-1. 3-4, 4-31, and 2-5, Carrier 7, Iridium-9/OneWeb #19, Starlink 5-13, Transport and Tracking Layer Segment 0 Flight 2, Starlink 7-4, and Starlink 7-7. All but one flight was from Vandenberg, with the Starlink V1 L28 flying from Cape Canaveral.

The flight is scheduled to carry up to 22 Starlink v2 Mini satellites into an orbit tilted 53 degrees to the equator, and will be SpaceX’s seventh launch in 2024 barring unforeseen delays and obvious changes.

SpaceShipTwo | Galaxy-06

After achieving six suborbital spaceflights in six months during 2023, Virgin Galactic opens the new year with its 11th spaceflight so far.

The company announced late last year that it would now fly every three months and only two or three times. VSS Unity is scheduled to launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico on January 26, carrying four more customers on what could be its penultimate mission.

Following this mission, a Galactic-07 flight is then expected to launch in the second quarter and it has not been determined whether there will be a Galactic-08 mission before Virgin Galactic pauses flights this summer to focus efforts on developing and testing the new Delta class. trolley.

This new vehicle will be able to transport six instead of four passengers up to twice a week starting in 2026 after a test flight currently expected to take place in mid-to-late 2025 and is expected to increase monthly revenues tenfold.

The Electron was prepared for the four-of-a-kind mission

The Electron was prepared for the four-of-a-kind mission. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

electron/kuri | Four of a kind

The first Electron mission of the year has been rescheduled as a precaution to avoid the incoming weather system and allow for additional pre-launch checks. It is now expected to lift off on January 27 at 06:15 UTC from Pad B at Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula during a 45-minute launch window.

The payload is four Low-Earth Multi-Use Space Situational Awareness (SSA) (LEMUR) satellites, which were built and will be operated by Spire Global Inc. For its customers NorthStar Earth & Space.

These satellites will be placed in a circular orbit with a length of 540 kilometers and an angle of 97 degrees. Spire will be the first to monitor all near-Earth orbits simultaneously, and make this accurate and timely data available as a service to the global satellite community. This data will include tracking, orbit determination, collision avoidance and proximity alerts.

As with previous missions, the Electron first stage will be recovered by a Rocket Lab naval recovery vessel after landing by parachute. Rocket Lab evaluates and reuses certain components, such as reusing the first recovered Rutherford engine last year, and is still working on getting a recovered phase back to fly. The company plans to carry out 22 missions this year, more than double the nine missions carried out last year.

This electron includes a silver thermal protection system (TPS) to help the carbon composite structure survive the extreme forces of reentry from space, as well as a carbon composite shield extended over the Rutherford engines.

Falcon 9 Block 5 | Starlink 6-38 kit

The final Starlink mission of the month was recently added to the NET schedule on January 28 at 6:04 EDT (23:04 UTC), which will launch from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center. The four-hour launch window needed the pad to be clear for the Axiom-3 launch, and it is next scheduled to be used for the IM-1 flight on February 10.

Augmentation and recovery methods have not yet been confirmed.

KREPE-2 capsule reenters Earth's atmosphere (Illustration - Credit: Northrop Grumman)

The KREPE-2 capsule reenters Earth’s atmosphere. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Falcon 9 Block 5 | CRS NG-20

This is the first time a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft has flown on a Falcon 9, having previously flown on the now-retired Antares 230+ rocket. Three Falcon flights were purchased for cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station to fill the gap until the new Antares 330 is operational.

This launch is expected to lift off from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on January 29 at 12:29 EDT (17:29 UTC) with SpaceX’s new B1072 booster on its maiden flight, returning to land on the pad at the LZ. -1 about eight minutes after launch.

Name it SS Patricia “Patty” Hilliard RobertsonNG-20 celebrates the life and achievements of Dr. Robertson, who was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1998 and was scheduled to travel to the International Space Station in 2002 before his sudden death the previous year from injuries sustained in a plane crash.

This will be the 20th voyage of the Cygnus cargo ship, which consists of the US service module (built on the GEOStar platform) and the Thales Alenia pressure module, which is manufactured in Italy and France. As part of the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) Phase 2 contracts, these three Falcon missions could include some delayed loading of payloads.

Experiments aboard this vehicle include a miniature surgical robot with “two hands” that will help the team test the operation in microgravity and any time delay for performing remote surgery in space with an operator on Earth. This experiment takes advantage of advances in miniaturization as well as NASA research dating back more than 15 years. It will pave the way for longer-duration missions where crew members are more likely to require medical procedures.

The shipment also includes some manufacturing trials. A metal 3D printer will test additive printing of small metal parts in microgravity, while a new platform will test the production of thin-film semiconductors in space. The first could enable the manufacture of parts for spacecraft on long-duration missions, avoiding the need for packaging or even predicting what parts they might need. The experiment is also expected to benefit manufacturing here on Earth.

Additional experiments include 3D cell culture that will enable astronauts to study cartilage degenerative diseases, while the Kentucky Reentry Probe Experiment-2 (KREPE-2) will test thermal protection systems during re-entry into the atmosphere. Building on the KREPE-1 mission, several heat shields will be tested using three different capsules armed with different sensors that capture data as they pass through actual reentry conditions. The experiment will also provide steps to protect people and structures on the ground from wildfires.

(Main image: Cygnus, SS Patricia “Patty” Hilliard Robertson, prepared for the NG-20 mission by the Northrop Grumman team. Source: Northrop Grumman)

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