This week could be the biggest private space flight week yet, with groundbreaking launch attempts by both Virgin Orbit and SpaceX .
Virgin Orbit wants to join the elite club of private start-up companies that actually made it into space and do a full flight test of its combined Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne system. Meanwhile, SpaceX wants to launch his Crew Dragon spacecraft with people on board – achieve a number of milestones, including the return of U.S. crew launch capabilities and human assessment of the Falcon 9 rocket.
Virgin Orbit was due to launch its first full demonstration flight on Sunday, but a sensor error that occurred when checking out before takeoff means that things are now being pushed back to at least Monday to check this out.
Additional precautions are hardly surprising as this milestone mission could help the company become an operational satellite launch provider – one of only a small handful of private companies that can claim this.
SpaceX passed its first important flight readiness check (FRR) on Friday for its first astronaut launch with crew, preparing a full rehearsal of the mission on Saturday before the actual launch. Another FRR with partner NASA is now planned on Monday and then the start should take place on Wednesday – depending on the weather and the cash register. This will definitely be seen.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries flew its last mission with its H-II missile and space transfer vehicle, which it uses to deliver to the International Space Station. The company is preparing a successor to this extremely successful and enduring rocket, the H3, which will make its launch debut sometime in 2022 if everything goes according to plan.
While SpaceX wants to make history with NASA and two of its astronauts, the person responsible for the agency's manned space efforts managed to get out of the agency surprisingly and abruptly last week. Doug Loverro resigned from his position, reportedly due to inappropriate activity he had carried out with a potential agency business partner prior to NASA's commercial Human Lander program.
Xilinx specializes in the construction of processors that can withstand the harsh operating conditions in space. This includes strong radiation exposure, extreme temperatures and much more. The company has just launched a new FPGA for space-based applications, which is the first 20 nm processor for space and the first with dedicated machine learning functions for edge computing that really redefine the term.
Space has been relatively undisputed when it comes to international disputes, mainly because it is difficult and expensive to access, and the benefits were not exactly clear 30 to 40 years ago when most of these rules were in place. The new rules of NASA include many of the old, but also some modernizations that are sure to trigger many debates and discussions in the space community.
The United Launch Alliance launched the X-37B last week on behalf of the U.S. Space Force. It was the first time that the mysterious experimental, unscrewed spacecraft was launched for this newly founded agency. The X-37B has of course flown a lot – but before that under the supervision of the U.S. Air Force, since the Space Force had not yet been formed.