Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Small Space News Story Roundup 19

B9/S25 - Stacked

SpaceX today stacked Ship 25 on top of Booster 9 as preparations for Integrated Flight Test #2 proceed.  This the first stacking with the new vented interstage for hot staging and it seemed like they were being a bit slower than the last time I watched one.  SpaceX pretty much said months ago that Booster 9 and Ship 25 take the next orbital test flight and while it's not going to be this week, the possibility remains that it could be this month.  As has been the case for a while, that depends on how fast the FAA and other bureaucrats move. 

Screen capture from Lab Padre's Rover 2.0 Camera

I expect they'll start verifying that nothing was messed up in moving by cryo testing, then do a full fueling load and drain, followed by either a full wet dress rehearsal or an actual static firing test. 

NASA Prepares for Meteor Sample to Arrive at Earth

I can't say the return to Earth of the sample because it has never been here (unless something really weird is going on), but the meteor sample return mission OSIRIS-REx is due to return to Earth on September 24.  

The mission, Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, launched back in September 2016 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V to begin its journey to the near-Earth asteroid and after a 2-year trip through space arrived in orbit around Bennu in December 2018.

The orbiter proceeded to study the asteroid for nearly 2 more years, searching for a proper site to conduct its touch-and-go landing in order to collect a viable sample of the asteroid. After a thorough scan of the celestial body, sometimes orbiting less than a mile above the surface, NASA selected its location and commanded the orbiter to lower itself to the surface for the sample. 

It seems like just the other day we were talking about the mission to Bennu and the involvement of astrophysicist Brian May, better known as the virtuoso guitarist of British rock group Queen, as well as designer of a line of electric guitars bearing his name. 

More details at the first link in this section, but the mission had a goal of collecting a roughly 2 ounce sample of the meteor to bring to Earth, but after measurements, they determined they had at least 8 ounces of regolith from Bennu, according to Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator on the mission, whom we met at the second link.  Something we didn't talk about is that this is not the end of the OSIRIS-REx mission.  It will pass by earth, and literally drop off the sample return payload before heading off to its next target.

Teams will conduct a go/no go poll prior to the Sample Return Capsules release from the orbiter, and if for some reason a no is given, they won’t have a chance to recover the sample until 2025 after a risky trip near the Sun.

Once a go is given, the capsule will be released from the orbiter 4 hours before the scheduled re-entry. The capsule will hit the atmosphere at 27,000 miles per hour, followed by a parachute being deployed and a soft touchdown at 10 miles per hour. The orbiter will perform a maneuver after release so it doesn’t enter the atmosphere and will undertake a brand new mission to study the asteroid Apophis.

Ground teams in Utah have been training intensively for their recovery mission.  

And, seriously, how long does it take and how much does it cost to come up with an acronym/mission name like OSIRIS-REx?




  1. Let's hope they have better luck than that mission to sample the solar wind and return. We don't need another crater.

    Though a low-budget studio *cough* The Asylum *cough* could make a movie out of that. Asteroid sample return mission infects Earth! Humanity doomed!

    Did you ever see Life? It's about a Mars sample return that goes bad. Recommended if you want to yell at your TV. Lots of _great_ science.


    1. Of course you remember "The Andromeda Strain"? Not low-budget. Of course, that was 52 years ago, so I guess it's crumbling into dust by now.

    2. I still remember watching Andromeda Strain, and having read the book a couple of years before it came out (as I recall it). Life looks familiar but watching the trailer on IMDB, there are scenes that don't look familiar along with some that do. Maybe I just saw trailers a few times.

      Andromeda strain was one of my favorite stories.

    3. "Life" is just Andromeda Strain with modern special effects and sensibilities. Crichton's estate should sue if they didn't have permission to copy.

    4. The movie was good, the book did a better job of explaining the plague. Modern remake sucked more than a turbo-charged Hoover.

  2. There's a flight and mariner's warning for September 8th, so Starship could fly that early, pending FAA approval, of course.

    We certainly live in interesting times.

    1. The 8th is the day after tomorrow and I don't think they have time to run just those few tests I can think of to proof out everything.

      I sure wouldn't complain if they did launch but it seems like, as Igor points out, too much learning and documenting to make it that soon.

  3. SiG, and all the rest of you readers, it always takes a little longer for things to happen when they are doing something "new" (or "improved"). They are additionally writing or documenting the newest Procedures for doing things, and this time the Starship sits a little higher now and the SQD has correspondingly been raised. So, yeah, it's going to take a little longer as they learn the new procedures and steps to take.

    Excitement is *still* guaranteed, though! Let's light this candle!!

    1. I was outside during the part of the day when it appeared that the SQD wasn't mating and they were examining it closely, but later in the day it looked like it connected and everything was fine. I guess if we see them messing with it a lot, it means something isn't quite right.

      But hey, it's almost a 400' tall rocket as it is and they just moved the top part up another 5 or 6 feet. 6 feet isn't that different.

    2. Indeed, SiG - you still die from the deceleration trauma whether it be 30 meters or 150 meters when you fall...

  4. Was it STARDUST where the chutes did not deploy and the capsule hit at 200kph? I seem to recall that it wasn’t all that damaged, and that some of the science payload was recovered intact.

    I remember saying at the time that this suggested that you don’t really *need* parachutes at all for some missions. What you do need is an extra drag producer - something like the grids on the falcon - and a designated 500m diameter landing spot that was filled with ping pong & tennis balls to a depth of 50 feet.

    1. You should patent that approach. Someplace like JPL might think it's a cheaper way to recover these missions than parachutes and a staff stationed all around the desert. The 500m diameter might be a tough target. Maybe a few square miles 50 feet deep in ping pong and tennis balls.

      Being the desert, though, there's always the snakes, tarantulas and scorpions to keep out.

  5. Imagine all those nitrocellulose ping pong balls going up in flame all at once.