Friday, March 3, 2023

Weekly Small Space News Story Roundup 2

Except the first one by this name was two weeks ago; otherwise it's a pretty regular thing.  

Rocket Lab may be abandoning plans for helicopter recovery of boosters.   

During an earnings teleconference on Feb. 28th, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said the company was considering recovering boosters from the ocean and refurbishing them for launch rather than catching a stage with a helicopter.  The company has only tried to capture the stages with a helicopter twice last year and failed both times.  This is almost like that PBS painter dude, Bob Ross, and his "happy little accidents" when he makes a tree out of a blotch of paint.

“This turned out to be quite a happy turn of events,” he said on the call. “Electron survived an ocean recovery in remarkably good condition, and in a lot of cases its components actually pass requalification for flight.” 

They're planning an ocean recovery after an upcoming flight with a booster that has been given some extra waterproofing.  He went on to say, “Pending this outcome of testing and analysis of the stage, the mission may move us towards sticking with marine recovery altogether and introduce significant savings to the whole operation.” 

Then he went on to say the part that surprised me; the cost of recovering a booster with the helicopter is pretty much the same as recovering by dropping it in the water and pulling it back out.  The difference is they think there are more missions that lend themselves to water recovery than the helicopter recovery, so in overview, they'll recover more boosters saving more money.

SpaceX Launches Crew 6

The three launches I expected on Monday have all been successfully completed, it's just that none of them went on Monday.  Crew 6 launched early Thursday morning after the delay to fix a clogged filter in the ground systems that support the rocket up until the moment of launch. Due to this problematic filter, the proper amount of TEA-TEB, a fluid used to ignite the rocket's Merlin 1D engines, was not reaching the first stage of the vehicle.  Strangely the last one of these weekly news roundups, two weeks ago, said the failure of the Virgin Orbit flight from the UK was due to a clogged filter.  Coincidence?  

The Crew 6 flight only had one experienced astronaut on board, Commander Stephen Bowen.  Pilot Warren “Woody” Hoburg had the quote of the mission, so far, on achieving orbit. 

"As a rookie flier, that was one heck of a ride, thank you," he radioed back to SpaceX's flight control center. "I would say this is an absolute miracle of engineering and I just feel so lucky that I get to fly on this amazing machine."

Don't make us jealous Woody.  I bet just about everybody reading this blog would like to take a ride in that "miracle of engineering and amazing machine." 

ESA's Juice Mission to Jupiter Approaching

The European Space Agency's mission to Jupiter's Icy Moons, named Juice, is currently approaching its launch date of NET April 13th.  In preparation, the Ariane 5 that will lift Juice to the Jovian system is being stacked in Kourou, French Guiana.  This is the second to last Ariane 5 launch, but the first ESA probe to the outer planets.  The mission will feature 35 flybys of Jupiter's moons believed to contain oceans: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.  One highlight is that near the end of its mission, Juice will enter orbit around Ganymede.

ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, Juice, will make detailed observations of the giant gas planet and its three large ocean-bearing moons – Ganymede, Callisto and Europa – with a suite of remote sensing, geophysical and in situ instruments. The mission will characterize these moons as both planetary objects and possible habitats, explore Jupiter’s complex environment in depth, and study the wider Jupiter system as an archetype for gas giants across the Universe.  

In about a month, the Juice spacecraft will be placed on top of the Ariane 5. The whole system will be rolled out onto the launch pad on April 11. 

2023 ESA-CNES-ARIANESPACE / Optique video du CSG - P BAUDON 




  1. Appreciate the updates, SiG!

    1. Thanks, Igor. These quick little summaries are fun to do. I hadn't heard of the Juice probe, for example, so I got to go to their web page and learn a bit.