Delta last, Moon tourist, Mars needs your help

NASA: More fantastic Juno imagery captures a “brown barge”

One of the latest images from the Jupiter-orbiting Juno includes a high resolution image from the south equatorial region of the giant planet. In one of the dark bands that wrap around Jupiter, the satellite snapped a shot of a “brown barge.” These features, which seem to be sort of smeared out cyclonic storms moving within high-speed bands, have been seen before, but they don’t seem to last that long and have avoided careful analysis. The Juno image provides the first look at the detailed structure in such a storm. And honestly, don’t look at the image here. I mean, it’s gorgeous, but don’t look. Follow this link and go see the full size glory at NASA’s site. Definitely worth it.

Jupiter’s south equatorial region

Universe Today: Japanese company joins the space plane race.

Virgin Galactic has it’s passenger-carrying VSS Unity testing in New Mexico. Sierra Nevada has it’s Dream Chaser doing drop tests over the desert, with plans for a cargo mission as early as 2019. Last year China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) announced that it was developing a space plane to be unveiled in 2020. And Boeing continues to fly the unmanned, mysterious X-37B as well as develop a space plane for DARPA

But add another name to the list of would-be space plane companies. Japanese start-up PD Aerospace has announced that they are in development of a “unique space plane” that they hope to have ready for suborbital flights by 2023. But they still have some way to go before they lap Boeing or the rest.

At present, 11 company employees are working at a plant in the town of Hekinan, Aichi Prefecture, to create a scaled-down, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to test their propulsion concept. Once work is finished on this vehicle, the company will conduct a test flight that will bring the UAV to an altitude of 100 km (62 mi). This altitude is known as the Karman Line, and commonly represents the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser following a free-flight test

SpaceX: Has signed a passenger to fly around the moon on a rocket they haven’t built

In 2017, SpaceX announced that a pair of passengers had signed on to make a lap around the moon — no landing, just a there and back again — using the Falcon Heavy launcher. But that flight got put on indefinite hold after Elon Musk dithered over whether the company would ever man-rate the Falcon-Heavy or just wait until they have their Big Falcon Rocket flying the Big Falcon Spaceship on really Big Falcon Missions. The answer to that seems definitely answered as SpaceX plans a webcast on Tuesday to announce the first private passenger to fly around the Moon on the BFR.

Watch this space … for two days. You may need snacks.

There’s also expectation that the Monday announcement will include information about the latest developments on BFR. It could be the first chance to see progress on the building of the booster and refinement of the ship that SpaceX expects to deliver humans to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Teslarati: SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 boosters are coming back in great shape, ready to fly again

Part of SpaceX’s plan for getting the BFR built was to make the Falcon 9 so GD reliable that they could fly them over, and over, and over — as many as a hundred times — without needing major repairs. To that end, the booster was iterated through several changes that eventually brought them to the Block 5. With titanium fins, heat-shielded sides, and reworked internals, the Falcon 9 Block 5 is just supposed to keep on working, so SpaceX can keep it’s design engineering team focused on the next genuinely big thing.

And it seems like that’s working out for them so far.

SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell has announced that the company’s upgraded Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket – debuted in May 2018 – is making its way through peak-stress launches, reentries, and landings in “much better shape than anticipated”, ultimately meaning that Falcon 9 booster refurbishment can now take as little as four weeks between flights. …

That’s also good news for SpaceX when it comes to price points, as it lets them seriously cut their per-flight costs. Don’t expect to see those savings immediately passed along to the customers. SpaceX is already undercutting other launchers, ensuring their rocket docket stays packed. Instead, they’re likely to channel those funds toward the same place they’re sending their engineers — the BFR.

Falcon 9 Block 5 sits down safely on automated barge.

Honestly, my only issue with SpaceX and the Block 5 is its naming convention.The boosters all have numbers, like the just recovered B1049. I’m not having it. Rockets that do this much work and show up on the launch pad again and again need names I’m dubbing B1049 Harold, after my dad who went to work every day at the same job for 40 years. Seems fitting.

Zooniverse: Your help is needed spotting features on Mars.

All those great Delta II-delivered Mars orbiters still can’t do it alone. Head over to Zooniverse and sign up for the Planet Four project. The number one consumer of … the time I’m not here.

Get in there. Put your name on something (metaphorically, at least)

SpaceFlight Now: ‘Heavy’ rocket flights delayed

If you’ve been waiting to see the Falcon Heavy do a repeat after sending Starman and his car into solar orbit … keep waiting. The Air Force has delayed the next Falcon Heavy launch until after the first of the year. The ULA’s big dog also gets a delay but could still squeeze in another 2018 flight.

Managers have pushed back the next flight of United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4-Heavy rocket from a launch pad in California until no sooner than early December, and the first launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy for the U.S. Air Force has likely been delayed to some time early next year, officials said this week.

The Arabsat 6A comm satellite is still on the manifest to fly sometime in 2018 on a Falcon Heavy, but that flight has come unmoored from its original October date and it’s unclear when it might actually take off.

Upcoming Launches

September 16  — PSLV | NovaSAR-S 
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle boosts the NovaSAR-S and SSTL-S1 satellites to orbit. 

September 25 — Ariane 5 | Horizons 3e 
After several delays, an Ariane 5 ECA rocket is scheduled to head up from the Arianespace launch site in French Guiana carrying high bandwidth comms satellites for Azerbaijan and the Pacific region.

October 6 — Pegasus XL | ICON
Plane launched Pegasys leaves the lofting L-1011 near Cape Canaveral and carries the small Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite for NASA. ICON will study the still somewhat mysterious ionosphere. Delayed for almost a year now. Keep fingers crossed.

October 7 — Falcon 9 | SAOCOM 1A
Another Block 5 (but not Harold) carries up an recon and communications satellite for Argentina.

October 11 — Soyuz | ISS 56S
If someone on the ISS really is dying to come home (and no, the Soyuz leak was not the result of space sabotage) they’ll get their chance soon as a replacement crew heads to the ISS from good old Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

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