Thursday, November 12, 2020

Space News Ketchup

The last few posts have been more or less Space News free, although several important things have gone on.  Time for a brief review of what will be mostly SpaceX news.  

On Tuesday, November 10th, NASA completed certification of the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon system, removing the last barriers to Saturday's launch of the first operational mission to the ISS, which will carry a crew of four for a regular rotation to the Space Station, twice the crew size of the demo flight over the summer.  Saturday's 7:49 PM launch will carry NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The vehicle is on Pad 39A right now, having had a test static fire yesterday, among the last tests before the mission.  Today, the crew boarded the vehicle for a dress rehearsal. 

Meanwhile, over in Boca Chica, Texas, Tuesday also featured a second static fire of SN8's three raptor engines. 

You may want to fast forward to about 1:45 on the slider.  The engine firing is at about 1:50.  The editing and work on this NASA Spaceflight (.com) video is better, and there's lots more in this video, too, including a second, half-speed replay with the audio shifted in time so that it's more like being there, followed by a third replay at quarter-speed.   

You will notice a shower of white hot something or other flying off to the right of the vehicle when the engines are fully on.  They spent a day investigating the engines and report no problems found, saying it was probably some sort of debris left under the test stand.  At the moment, the crew is preparing for a repeat of that static firing test today, which should prove the engines were not the cause.  The road closure is in effect until 9:00PM Central, although I have seen them extend the closure at night.  It's a beach road; not much traffic toward the beach at night. 

My favorite explanation for the white hot sparks is that a family of armadillos were flash frozen as the system started venting liquid oxygen onto them, and then were flash fried when the engines started.  Not that it's a true story, just that it's a good story.

The Super Heavy booster is in the process of being stacked, in which the stainless steel rings are welded on top of each other.  I haven't seen an estimate of how close it is to completion. 

The highly anticipated test flight of SN8 has not been firmly scheduled but is now looking like it might be toward the end of next week, the last full work week in November. 

Finally, the ULA Atlas V launch of a National Reconnaissance Office satellite which has been delayed for months and scrubbed around nine times, is scheduled for tomorrow at 5:13 PM EST from the Cape. That's right, most delayed and scrubbed launch in recent memory is scheduled for Friday the 13th at 5:13 PM. They're showing they aren't superstitious in the slightest.


  1. LOL! I called armadillos a couple of times on other fora, but I like your flash-frozen take on it! Somebody from Texas claimed it was just a cloud of mosquitoes, but I've been attacked by a cloud of those in the Everglades, and I'm not sure they would have been able to reflect light OR glow incandescently...

    1. They did the second static fire at 7:15:18 PM and there were more flying 'dillo chunks. Not as many as Tuesday but more evenly spread.

      There was something strange a bit later, 7:16:38 PM. There appears to be a ribbon of something glowing red running down under the test stand. It lasts for quite a while, maybe a full minute. It looks like a burning liquid; at one point, it seems to drip in balls of flame.

      Unless SpaceX or Elon Musk himself tweets about it or says something, the folks on Lab Padre know nothing about it, but it's looking like something might have hard failed. It's pretty much impossible to trust the chat on the forum. Hopefully we'll know more tomorrow.

    2. Elon reported in reply to Austin Bernard that SN8 lost pnuematics and an engine will have to be replaced. Hey, it's a test program and they have it this far along. They will get there.

    3. I was just reading that. They thought it could blow up as the LOX warms up and boils to gaseous oxygen, but there's a (last resort) safety feature designed to burst before that can happen that did its job. Saved their bacon. He said they need to redesign their pneumatics so this doesn't happen again.

      Like you say, it's a test program with all kinds of new hardware. The whole philosophy is build, test until you fail, fix it, then repeat, so a failure like this is entirely expected.

  2. It's Elon's world. We just live in it.

  3. What do you think of Bidens plan to pump the brakes on the Moon mission and refocus NASA onto Climate Change?

    1. Cronyism is the problem with NASA today (and 99.9% of all government agencies). Some NASA higher ups will tell you their job is to spread money for space-related jobs and not actually accomplishing anything. Biden is shoveling money to a different set of cronies, and wasting more money.

      If that was the only crazy-ass thing he was doing it might be more bearable.

      Considering that SpaceX is almost entirely self-funded by sales of their launch services, I don't think it would be big impact to them, although I'm sure big enough cutbacks could hurt. They have the NASA contract to lift crew and cargo to the ISS, after all.