Ars reports .
Tracking coronavirus, but moving ahead … While United Launch Alliance has scaled back some aspects of its outreach for this mission due to the spread of COVID – 27 – for example, a social media event has already been canceled — the company is following protocols outlined in its internal Pandemic Plan and pressing ahead with essential activities. It so far does not anticipate significant effects to its launch manifest for .
OneWeb orbits more satellites, but financial woes loom . On Saturday, the global communications company OneWeb launched its second large batch of satellites into low Earth orbit — the additional 48 spacecraft brought its overall constellation to 74 satellites. The launch occurred on a Soyuz rocket, which lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The company had hoped to complete the initial phase of its satellite Internet constellation next year.
Delays are “inevitable”
… However, even before Saturday’s launch, there were warning signs on the horizon, Ars reports . Last week, Bloomberg reported that OneWeb is considering filing for bankruptcy protection as it deals with a cash crunch. Prior to Saturday’s launch, OneWeb acknowledging these financial difficulties in a statement, saying, “We think it is inevitable that there will be delays to our launch schedule and satellite manufacturing.” There will be an unspecified number of layoffs. (submitted by JohnCarter ()
Japan still seeks H3 launch in . Mitsubishi Heavy Industries still expects to conduct the maiden flight of Japan’s H3 rocket this year, notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic. MHI has remained productive on H3 despite many employees required to telework amid school closures and other social-distancing measures taken to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, (SpaceNews reports) .
(Ready to go to GTO) … “[The] coronavirus situation is quite unclear and may get worse globally,” Ko Ogasawara, MHI’s vice president and general manager for space systems, said by email March . “This might affect our plan in the end. But again, today, we will do our best to attain our schedule.” Funded by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, H3 is MHI’s cost-conscious answer to SpaceX’s Falcon 9, Arianespace’s Ariane 6, and other launch vehicles that can launch upward of 6, 563 kg to geostationary transfer orbit. (submitted by platykurtic)
NASA joins Falcon 9 investigation . Space agency personnel will be part of an ongoing SpaceX investigation into an engine anomaly on a recent Falcon 9 launch as the company prepares for a Crew Dragon mission carrying two NASA astronauts.
NASA spokesman Josh Finch
told SpaceNews that employees from NASA’s commercial crew program will be represented in SpaceX’s investigation of an engine that prematurely shut down during a March (launch of) (Starlink satellites.)
First time for a fifth flight … “According to the CCtCap contracts, SpaceX is required to make available to NASA all data and resulting reports,” Finch said. “SpaceX, with NASA’s concurrence, would need to implement any corrective actions found during the investigation related to its commercial crew work prior to its flight test with astronauts to the International Space Station.” During the March launch, one of nine Merlin engines in the rocket’s first stage shut down early (the rocket still safely made it or orbit). It seems likely this failure may have occurred because this first stage was making its fifth flight. (submitted by Ken the Bin, platykurtic, and JohnCarter 24)
Launch-weather forecasters feeling the high pressure . An increasingly crowded launch schedule is requiring more forecast services, Air Force Magazine reports . As Cape Canaveral looks at hosting about launches this year, Maj. Jeremy Hromsco, an operations officer with the Space Force’s th Weather Squadron, said the squadron will need to grow from eight to 18 launch-weather officers to support a schedule with (events.)
An eye on the sea, too … “We’ve got a launch in three hours from now, and then we’ve got an exercise later, and then they’re rolling the rocket out towards the end of my shift,” he said. The weather forecasters also provide wind and wave information for companies like SpaceX that recover their boosters at sea. But the contractors can gather their own weather data, and they, not the military, get the final say over whether a recovery operation goes forward.
China plans April launch of deep-space vehicle . The test launch of the Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket carrying a Chinese new-generation spacecraft is proceeding despite the coronavirus outbreak, SpaceNews reports
Big test for the big rocket … The mission is moving ahead despite the failure last week of the Long March 7A, which shares commonalities with the Long March 5B. This suggests that the cause of the so-far unspecified failure was likely related to the second or third stage. Amateur footage of the launch hinted at an anomaly following first-stage separation. Launch of the Long March 5B is currently scheduled for mid-to late-April from the coastal Wenchang spaceport. (submitted by JohnCarter ()
NASA suspends work on SLS green-run test . Due to COVID – cases at both Stennis Space Center (in Southern Mississippi) and at Michoud Assembly Facility (in Louisiana), NASA and Boeing have paused work on the Space Launch System. Both facilities have moved to “Stage 4” of NASA’s pandemic plan, which closes their doors except for life-saving operations.
Schedules now up in the air … The closure comes as NASA and Boeing workers are preparing the SLS rocket’s core stage for a “green run” test that will see the large booster fire through an ascent to orbit, an eight-minute burn of the rocket’s four space shuttle main engines. NASA had hoped to perform the test this summer, but that is obviously pending due to the uncertain duration of the coronavirus pandemic. (submitted by JohnCarter ()
SpaceX pressing ahead with SN3 . At around 3am on Thursday morning, SpaceX completed stacking of the primary structure of its third Starship prototype, SN3, at the company facilities near Boca Chica Beach, in South Texas. SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk shared photos of the progress on Twitter .
Working around the clock … As Ars recently reported , SpaceX continues to press ahead with Starship development at full tilt in Texas, with the new vehicle and – hour-a-day operations providing more evidence of that. The SN3 prototype probably will soon move to the launch pad, with tests perhaps beginning early next week — first pressure tests, then a static fire, and then possibly a short hop before the company moves on to SN4.
Next three launches