Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Why Do So Many Stories Center on SpaceX?

Could it be they're doing far more than everyone else? 

Next CRS mission Go for Thursday night launch 

If you're within a couple of hundred miles of the Kennedy Space Center, cargo resupply mission CRS-29 (CRS stands for "Commercial Resupply Services") is set to liftoff Thursday night from launch complex 39A at the KSC.  The date/time is November 9th at 8:28 PM ET or Friday morning the 10th at 0128 UTC.  Weather is forecast to be excellent over the East Central Florida, with temperature at launch site of 74, winds ESE at 5 mph and a 5% chance of rain.  Melody Lovin, launch weather officer with Cape Canaveral Space Force Station's 45th Weather Squadron, said chances of acceptable weather are 95%.  My guess is that the mission will take off to the SE so should be visible from central and south Florida.

The Cargo Dragon will carry up more than 6,500 pounds of supplies and scientific hardware on this run, stay docked to the International Space Station for about a month, and then come back to Earth with about 3,800 pounds of cargo.  

Dragon is the only cargo vehicle with this return capability. The other two robotic freighters that are operational today — Northop Grumman's Cygnus craft and Russia's Progress vehicle — are designed to burn up in Earth's atmosphere when their orbital missions are over.

This is the second mission for both the Falcon 9 booster and the Cargo Dragon capsule.  The booster's first mission was the Crew 7 mission to the ISS.  Landing will be Return to Launch Site, landing at LZ-1.  The Cargo Dragon previously flew CRS-26 to the space station. 

The Air Force Spaceplane X-37B will ride a Falcon Heavy to orbit.

The launch is scheduled a month away, NET December 7th, so there's a bit of a wait for it, and no launch time is set - rather common for missions a month away.  The spaceplane is operated by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the U.S. Space Force. The upcoming mission will be Orbital Test Vehicle 7 and the mission is launching as USSF-52

This will be the first time SpaceX will launch the spaceplane.  Until now, the launches have been on Atlas V launch vehicles.  SpaceX was awarded the $130 million contract in June 2018 to launch USSF-52, but as has been the case with so many Falcon Heavy missions, was delayed by payload availability.  

The X-37B spaceplane is a derivative of the X-37A designed by NASA in the late 1990s to deploy from the Space Shuttle. The program later was transferred to the Defense Department. There are two X-37B spacecraft, which were originally designed for missions of 270 days, but have greatly exceeded that goal since the spaceplane’s first mission in 2010.

Starship Integrated Flight Test 2 Appears to be Imminent

The long awaited second Starship flight test appears to be imminent, possibly as early as next Monday, November 13.  The FAA signed off on the safety review of April's IFT1 on Halloween, October 31st leaving the ball solely in the US Fish and Wildlife Service's hands.  While they have a lot of time to complete the study, insider rumors are saying that could be completed as soon as this Friday.   

Once that review is complete, which could happen this week, SpaceX will receive its FAA launch license. Technicians will install pyrotechnic charges on the Starship rocket to complete the arming of its flight termination system, the destruct mechanism needed to blow up the vehicle if it veers off course.

Then SpaceX will stack the Starship upper stage on top of the Super Heavy booster to create the fully formed, nearly 400-foot-tall (120-meter) launch vehicle, the largest rocket ever built. On launch morning, SpaceX teams will load more than 10 million pounds of methane and liquid oxygen into the two-stage rocket.

There are numerous changes to the ground infrastructure ("stage zero") as well as the vehicle, but it seems nothing draws as much attention as the introduction of "hot staging" in Starship.  Stephen Clark at Ars Technica goes so far as to say "If the next Starship makes it through staging, you can call that a win."  Personally, considering that SpaceX has been several steps ahead of the regulatory agencies since April, I think they need to make orbit and complete the "one and done" planned orbit.  That was nearly seven months ago!  Starship and Superheavy are extremely important to NASA and the Artemis lunar missions.  Another failure, especially if it's early in the flight bringing another seven months of delays, could very well kill off or at least severely wound NASA's lunar landing plans.  

Booster 9 and Ship 25, stacked recently.  Thanks to the new interstage ring for the hot staging, the vehicle is "a few" feet taller than the IFT1 stack.  Image credit: SpaceX


  1. Thing is, if the FAA and FWS would just get the heck out of SpaceX's way, and let them launch the test articles when SpaceX is ready, SpaceX would probably be ahead of schedule and be on their third or fourth generation HLS lander before the rest of Artemis is even ready for launch.

    1. I think you're absolutely right. I was hoping that NASA's interest would add a little pressure on the other agencies, but predictably the FAA and FWS react by showing off their power and delay as much as they want.

  2. This launch site has a link to a trajectory simulation at It appears Falcon will go northeast.

    1. Thanks for that link. The guy I used to use for that info is on Twitter or X I find this morning it's working as just that bookmark but I've checked it many times and X wouldn't let me look at it.

    2. Excellent launch! Good views from here (Mims) Couldn't see the landing burn but it lit the sky.

    3. We were clouded out. Caught a glimpse during the first minute of the flight but nothing after that, and came back in when they dropped the first stage.

      It was clear or light clouds all day, so walking out and seeing nothing was quite a surprise.

  3. SiG, I find it difficult to believe that, "Another failure, especially if it's early in the flight bringing another seven months of delays, could very well kill off or at least severely wound NASA's lunar landing plans. "
    The "seven months of delays" are sure as hell NOT SpaceX's fault - they are nimble and quick, unlike the sedentary regulation agencies holding them back. Gubmint works at two speeds, "All Ahead Dead Slow" and "All Stop". It's pretty clear the Envirowhackos and other inimical forces are at play here to slow/stop SpaceX just about any way they can! And so far it's working...
    NASA should shut their pie holes about unacceptable delays, they haven't a leg to stand on - but as long as NASA is infected by politics, Crap's gonna happen. After all, we need more money to throw at Ukraine and now Israel - both can be money pits but Ukraine is far and away the leader.
    Heavy sigh.

    1. You forgot "All Back Emergency" for whenever anything bad happens, or one of their pet activist organizations has a hissy fit.

    2. Silly me - I did indeed. Never let a crisis go to waste, and all that.

  4. OT, but I hope you don't mind this:

    I worked on a few of the black boxes for this a few contracts back. I wanted to do more work on it, but I'm no longer willing to work on the road away from Cincinnati.