Orbital Demo the goal amid potential SN16 hypersonic test

As the Launch Integration Tower at the Orbital Launch Site (OLS) continues to grow, Elon… The post Orbital Demo the goal amid potential SN16 hypersonic test appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

Orbital Demo the goal amid potential SN16 hypersonic test

As the Launch Integration Tower at the Orbital Launch Site (OLS) continues to grow, Elon Musk has intimated a potential interim test with Starship SN16.

As SN16 was rolled out of the High Bay towards the scrapyard, most believed that confirmed that the next vehicle to roll down Highway 4 to the launch site would be the Super Heavy and Starship tasked with the first orbital attempt. However, Musk soon tweeted SpaceX might use SN16 on a hypersonic flight test.

To Retire Or Not To Retire:

SpaceX Super Heavy/Starship Section
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  • Following the success of Starship SN15’s high altitude test, SN16 has been patiently sitting inside the High Bay.

    Complete with nosecone and aero surfaces, SN16 could have rolled to the suborbital site weeks ago had SN16 been required for a repeat of SN15’s test or to a higher altitude.

    However, with the focus firmly on uninterrupted work at the Orbital Launch Site (OLS) – which an SN16 test campaign would have impacted – the lack of SN16 movement pointed to the overall thinking that SpaceX was firmly focused on the full stack orbital test, currently set to involve “Booster 2” (which includes BN3 parts) and Starship SN20.

    With Booster 2 undergoing stacking operations inside the High Bay, SN16 was finally rolled out at the Production Facility and set on the road towards the scrapyard.

    Shortly after SN16 met up with the retired SN15, Musk reacted to Jack Beyer’s (@thejackbeyer) incredible photo of the duo, noting that SN16 may yet gain a reprieve.

    “We might use SN16 on a hypersonic flight test,” which came to the surprise of most of the community that was unaware such a test was under consideration.

    A hypersonic test would involve a fueled starship that accelerates too far greater speeds compared to the hop tests, which throttled down to the extent that Raptors were shut down in sequence ahead of the flip around.

    Such a test will be used to experience aerodynamic forces that the structure would have to endure during orbital launches and fly closer to the conditions of reentering from orbital speeds, providing vital data ahead of SN20’s orbital flight.

    This also beckons the question about the Thermal Protection System (TPS) tiles that will fly with SN16 should the hypersonic test become confirmed. SN16 has large patches of TPS, far more than SN15, although not yet enough for an orbital re-entry.

    With the fate of SN16 still in the air – and Musk tweeting of a Possible hypersonic test flight while SN16 appeared to be moving toward early retirement – all eyes will be on the FAA to see if any documentation points at a test that is being fully planned.

    All eyes will also be on Musk’s Twitter replies, as per usual.

    The Orbital Demonstration Flight

    For now, the official stance is focused on the progression from SN15’s success into the ambitious orbital demonstration flight.

    As previously documented to involve Super Heavy BN3 and Starship SN20, those vehicles are currently in the midst of being processed at the Production Site.

    BN3, since renamed “Booster 2” by Musk, is being stacked in the High Bay. The latest stacking operation involved the Aft Section, hoisted by the recently installed Bridge Crane.

    The Starship test plans are fluid and subject to change. More will be known once the vehicles take up their position at the OLS.

    Back at the launch site, the test article for Super Heavy boosters, called BN2.1, has been tested twice.

    During the tests, engineers filled the tank with liquid nitrogen and raised the pressure to verify the weld and structural integrity of the concept.

    It is not known at this point if the goal of the second attempt was a test to destruction or if they will do a third test to destruction, and SpaceX so far has not communicated the success or failure of these tests.

    Orbital Launch Site (OLS):

    The Orbital Demonstration flight will be the first launch from the OLS, converted from a spare plot of land next to the Suborbital Pad into a hive of construction activity.

    The centerpiece of the OLS is the Orbital Launch Tower, which continues to rise into the South Texas skyline with Sections 4 and 5 recently lifted and installed on the tower.

    The fast pace of construction has already seen section 6 rolled to the OLS and it is currently sitting next to the Tower, waiting to be lifted by the giant LR 11350 crane, nicknamed by the SpaceXers as “Frankencrane.”

    Section 7, which could be the last of the matched sections, is already under construction at the Propellant Production Site.

    However, Brady Kenniston spotted the initial construction of another section on Monday.

    Back at ground level, a giant winch – which was taken from Phobos, one of the SpaceX oil rigs being converted to be used as ocean spaceports – has been attached to the base of the tower and is most likely for the crane on top of the tower which will be used for Starship and Super Heavy stacking.

    This past week also marked the dismantling of one of the initial famed cranes at the launch site, with the LR1600 “Tankzilla” being prepared to depart, ahead of being replaced by the LR11000 for the construction of the OLS.

    As documented by Mary (@bocachicagal), SpaceX also received the delivery of a brand new wind radar earlier this month.

    It will further help SpaceX track the conditions and winds at higher altitudes in Boca Chica and find the right spots to launch Starship in the future, compared to the previously used method, which was using weather balloons on launch days. However, the installation of the radar so far has not taken place.

    This comes after SpaceX proposed to the FAA to change the wind model for future launch authorization, in the light of the investigation after the SN8 launch violation.

    Raptor Testing at McGregor:

    A key center for the future of Starship launch cadence is SpaceX’s Test Center at McGregor, Texas.

    Used for both Merlin and Raptor tests, photos from NSF’s Gary Blair in L2 McGregor showed SpaceX had prepared another Raptor engine with a vacuum nozzle extension on the horizontal test stand.

    NSF’s Gary Blair spots another RVac on the test stand at McGregor – via NSF/L2

    While no sea level Raptors were seen on the test stands during Saturday’s pass, SpaceX has shown rapid pace with sea level Raptor production in the past, which will be required for upcoming Super Heavy test flights.

    McGregor has already supplied engines up to SN74, with that engine seen arriving into Starbase along with SN72 last week.

    The Raptor Van is making almost daily trips on the Texas highways between the two sites, meaning the stock of Raptors already at Starbase could be in double digits.

    Near the Raptor test stands is a facility that SpaceX is currently using to test Starship and Super Heavy RCS thrusters.

    On his weekly flight, Gary Blair spotted the potential test stand for these hot gas thrusters used to steer the ship and booster to their destinations.

    The RCS Test Stand – via Gary Blair for NSF/L2

    As Elon Musk mentioned on Twitter, SpaceX currently aims to have the hot gas thrusters ready for the first orbital test flight.

    Photos and videos provided by Jack Beyer, Brady Kenniston, and Gary Blair. Additional information and article assistance provided by: Patrick Colquhoun, Evan Packer, Adrian Beil, Anthony Iemole, Leo Bruce, Justin Davenport, and Pierre Bou.

    For live updates, follow NASASpaceFlight’s Twitter account and the NSF Starship Forum Sections.

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    ESA/NASA complete ISS spacewalk to install first new solar array

    Two astronauts went outside the International Space Station (ISS) to complete installation of the first… The post ESA/NASA complete ISS spacewalk to install first new solar array appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

    ESA/NASA complete ISS spacewalk to install first new solar array

    Two astronauts went outside the International Space Station (ISS) to complete installation of the first of six new Boeing-built solar arrays — part of a program to increase the station’s electrical power generation capacity as its science and research demands increase and future expansion plans continue.

    The Extravehicular Activity (EVA) – officially known as US EVA-75 – began at 11:42 UTC / 07:42 EDT when Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency (ESA) and Shane Kimbrough from NASA took their spacesuits to battery power before exiting the Quest Airlock to begin their work.

    IROSA background

    The eight original Solar Array Wings (SAWs) on the ISS, which each produce around 30 kilowatts (kW) of power for a total of about 250kW are beginning to show signs of degradation, with the oldest array now having been in space since 2000 when the P6 truss and associated arrays was delivered to the station by Shuttle Endeavour’s STS-97 crew.

    With over 20 years of use, and normal degradation of solar arrays, the eight SAWs now only produce around 160kW of power – against a backdrop of rising power demands from the station’s increasing users.

    This led the Station program to develop the ISS Power Augmentation (IPA) plan, which called for adding six additional solar arrays to the station in order to restore the outpost’s power generation to its original levels.

    Under the IPA program, six new ISS Roll Out Solar Arrays (IROSAs) will be added. Whilst the station’s original arrays were folded up and deployed in an accordion-like manner, the IROSAs are a new type of array technology which roll out in a mat-like manner from inside a cylindrical canister.


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  • The IROSAs will be installed on top of six of the station’s existing solar arrays, which will allow the IROSAs to utilize the same sun-tracking motors and be connected into the same electrical system as the current arrays.

    With the IROSAs being around 30% efficient, compared to the 14% efficiency of the original arrays, the IROSAs will generate roughly the same amount of power as the originals despite being only half their size.

    Each IROSA will produce 20kW of additional power, for a total of 120kW across all six arrays.

    However, because the IROSAs are smaller, they will not completely cover the half of the six SAWs they’ll be installed over. Instead, portions of the original arrays will still be power positive.

    The unshadowed portions of the original arrays will continue to produce 95kW as a result, making for a combined total of 215kW of power available to the ISS — an increase of nearly a third compared with the outpost’s current levels.

    This first IROSA was launched along with the second aboard the SpaceX CRS-22 cargo Dragon mission that launched from Florida back on 3 June. 

    The first EVA encounter numerous issues, primarily with Shane Kimbrough’s suit and a hardware interference with the solar array deployment that brought an end to the spacewalk well before the main objectives could be accomplished.

    EVA-74 issues

    US EVA-74 encountered numerous issues, primarily with Shane Kimbrough’s suit and a hardware interference with the solar array unfolding that brought an end to the spacewalk well before the main objectives could be accomplished

    After exiting the Quest Airlock, the first task for the pair was to translate out to the IROSA Flight Support Equipment (FSE). However, in a somewhat sign of things to come, the hatch covering would not close at first, and Shane had to spend more time than planned getting the airlock’s fabric hatch covering configured properly.

    The FSE, pallet on which the pair of IROSAs are attached, was removed from cargo Dragon’s trunk by Canadarm2, also known officially as the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) — part of the overall Mobile Base System on the station. Canadarm2 then installed the FSE onto the Mobile Base System (MBS) Payload ORU Accommodation (POA).

    For Pesquet and Kimbrough, after translating to the FSE, the duo began setup of the worksite and released launch restraint bolts on the IROSA.

    However, before the EVA could progress further, two issues were noted with Shane’s suit. First, a sensor in the suit’s sublimator — which provides pressure — registered a spike. Shortly thereafter, the Display and Control Module (DCM) in his suit malfunctioned, necessitating an immediate return to the Quest Airlock to connect back to Station umbilicals to attempt a restart of the unit.

    The “warm restart” of the DCM meant that Shane’s suit momentarily lost its cooling and CO2 scrubbing capabilities; however, this is an acceptable condition, per EVA procedures, when attempting to “warm restart” a DCM. A failure to restart the unit would have meant a premature end to the EVA.

    The restart was successful, and ground teams sent Shane back out to Thomas while managers and engineers continued to discuss the sublimator issue — which itself could have also stop the EVA early. Fortunately, through a series of suit configuration tests, ground teams were able to determine that the sublimator was functioning properly and that a faulty sensor likely triggered an erroneous pressure increase reading.

    Angle showing how the new IROSAs will be deployed over the current arrays. (Credit: NASA)

    With his suit good to go, Kimbrough translated out to the P6 truss installation site — specifically the 2B Integrated Electronics Assembly (IEA) — to begin more setup while Pesquet – mounted to the end of Canadarm2 – held on to the IROSA while he was “flown” out toward the P6 truss.

    Inside the ISS in the Robotics Work Station in the Cupola viewing module, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur controlled Canadarm2; she was the one to physically drive Pesquet out toward the P6 truss.

    Due to the fact that P6 is at the very outboard end of the station, Canadarm2 cannot reach all the way to the worksite, meaning Pesquet had to hand-off the IROSA to Kimbrough, who then in turn held on to it whilst Pesquet dismounted the arm and repositioned.

    Once Pesquet was in position, Kimbrough handed the IROSA back to him. The duo then aligned the IROSA onto the mounting bracket of the “Mod Kit” — which was installed during a spacewalk earlier this year — at the base of the 2B Mast Canister Assembly (MCA).

    The IROSA was first soft-docked onto the mounting bracket before an attempt to unfolded it into its deployment configuration stalled due to interference/blockage from a nearby structure. At this point, already at the six hour mark into the spacewalk, ground teams decided to have the duo photograph the interference and firmly secure the IROSA as is and end the spacewalk.

    Teams will now evaluate a path forward to unfold the array, which must happen before it can be unfurled.

    Thomas and Shane also did not mount four electrical connections between the IROSA and the 2B MCA in order to connect the IROSA into the electrical system of the current 2B solar array as they ran out of time.

    The ISS once the new arrays are installed – via Mack Crawford for NSF L2.

    After returning to the Quest Airlock, the duo took their suits off battery power at 19:26 UTC / 15:26 EDT, concluding the 7 hour 15 minute spacewalk.

    EVA-75 success

    Sunday’s spacewalk successfully completed the main objectives of US EVA-74 as well as saw “get ahead” tasks performed to reduce the amount of work needed in five days when the next spacewalk to install the second IROSA array is slated to occur.

    After leaving the Quest airlock, Thomas took the lead moving to the worksite on the P6 truss. The pair worked to unfold the new solar array on the 2B power channel that experienced the interference on the previous EVA.

    This time, the mitigation strategies developed on the ground worked, and Thomas and Shane were able the secure the IROSA properly before running electrical and data connections between the new array and the station’s power system.The crew members then successfully deployed the solar array from its flight support structure — marking the first time since 2009 that a new array was unfurled on the station. Until this spacewalk, the newest solar arrays for the station were those on the S6 truss, delivered by the STS-119 crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

    With a success behind them, Thomas and Shane then turned their attention to get-ahead work for the second IROSA installation, currently scheduled for US EVA-76 on 25 June.

    That get ahead work involved releasing the upper support beams that were needed for launch and delivery.

    The EVA officially concluded at 18:09 UTC / 14:09 EDT.

    Overall, US EVA-75 was the 240th EVA in support of station construction and maintenance and the eighth spacewalk so far this year outside the outpost.

    (Lead image: Placement of the new IROSAs over the existing station solar arrays. Credit: Mack Crawford for NSF L2)

    The post ESA/NASA complete ISS spacewalk to install first new solar array appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

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