SpaceX works on new high bay, Blue Origin fighting for HLS, Mass simulator on SLS, & more top stories

This week, SpaceX has continued their work at Starbase, 34 more OneWeb satellites were launched into orbit, and SLS has gained its Orion mass simulator.


Larger high bay construction begins at Starbase

On Thursday, some of the very first signs of construction for SpaceX’s new high bay were seen from the air. The construction is in the very early stages and currently consists primarily of breaking concrete and rebar to prepare for the foundation.

This photo taken from the ground shows concrete being broken up where the new high-bay will stand. Credit: Nic Ansuini

The new high bay will sit just north of the current high bay and will be significantly wider, and slightly taller. The building will take some time to complete, but once ready will dramatically increase the number of Starship vehicles and Super Heavy boosters that can be built at one time. The high bay is used to stack rings during the assembly of the ships and is needed to accommodate the 69-meter high booster.

Future possibilities with Tesla robot

During Tesla’s AI day, they announced a new robot in early development. The humanoid robot is made to fit in naturally in a human world. We discussed the possibility that SpaceX could eventually use the robot in Starbase in place of the Boston Dynamics robots. The Boston Dynamics robots can operate and gather information at times when it is not safe for humans to be present. While we only speculated they may be used in Starbase, Elon confirmed the eventual plan to mass-produce the robots for use on Mars.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin brings HLS battle to court

In news that surprised few but angered many, Blue Origin has taken NASA to court over their loss of the HLS contract. After Blue Origin and the National Team lost their GAO protest, Blue released a number of inflammatory graphics calling SpaceX Starship, the winner of the contract, “immensely complex and high risk.” Blue is hoping NASA will reconsider selecting them as a second provider for the lunar landings.

In order to quickly resolve the issue, NASA entered into a voluntary stay of performance with SpaceX (so work between the two is halted) in exchange for expedited litigation. The matter should be resolved when the stay expires on November first.

Blue Origin has also recently been losing many of their very talented employees. According to CNBC, many high ranking personnel who worked on the Human Landing System, New Glenn, and the BE-4 engine have left the company for the likes of SpaceX and Firefly Aerospace

New Shepard launches this coming Wednesday

The launch, NS-17, will take place on August 25th and carry NASA technology as well as a special art installation.

Under a Tipping Point partnership with NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, the NS-17 flight will further test a suite of lunar landing technologies to reduce risk and increase confidence for successful missions to the Moon. The payload will fly mounted on the exterior of the New Shepard booster. This is the second flight for this experiment.

Knowledge gained from the first flight on October 13, 2020* informed a series of critical improvements to further the capabilities of the Navigation Doppler Lidar and the Descent Landing Computer, which would work together to determine a spacecraft’s location and speed as it approaches the surface of the Moon. The technologies could allow future missions—both crewed and robotic—to target landing sites that weren’t possible during the Apollo missions, such as regions with varied terrain near craters.

Blue Origin
The Orion stage adapter structural test article and Orion Mass Simulator atop SLS | Image Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Mass simulator installed on SLS

NASA is working quickly to have SLS ready for launch by the end of the year. Recently, they installed a mass simulator on top of the SLS for Artemis I. The mass simulator is, quite simply, a large weight that simulates the same weight as the Orion capsule itself.

With this weight installed, they can conduct vibration testing of the vehicle and a wet dress rehearsal. The vibration testing will see allow engineers to more accurately model the vibrations Orion will experience during flight.

For the wet dress rehearsal, SLS will be rolled out to SLC-39B. Teams will go through a simulated launch countdown. This testing will also allow the teams to see how SLS reacts to the environment once at the launchpad.

Firefly static fires first Alpha rocket

On Thursday, Firefly released video of their first successful static fire. Their alpha vehicle is 29 meters tall and capable of carrying 1000kg into lower earth orbit. The team previously attempted a static fire back in May, but this successful static fire puts Firefly Aerospace in a good position for their first launch of Alpha, targeting no earlier than September 2nd. The launch will take place from SLC-2W at Vandenberg Space Force Station in California, but Alpha is also set to launch out of SLC-20 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Alpha vehicle ignites engines for static fire. Credit: Firefly Aerospace

OneWeb launches 9th set of satellites

Last night, OneWeb had their ninth launch of satellites. A Soyuz rocket launching from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carried 34 more satellites into orbit, bringing the companies total up to 288. OneWeb confirmed earlier today they have signal acquisition from all 34 new satellites. OneWeb hopes to provide global internet connectivity with their satellite constellation and plans to begin providing service this year.

More top stories

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