SpaceX’s Starship could launch secret Turkish satellite, says Gwynne Shotwell
According to SpaceX COO/President Gwynne Shotwell and a Turkish satellite industry official, Starship and Super Heavy may have a role to play in the launch of Turksat’s first domestically-procured communications satellite.
Per Shotwell’s specific phrasing, this comes as a bit of a surprise. Built by Airbus Defense and Space, SpaceX is already on contract to launch Turksat’s 5A and 5B communications satellites as early as Q2 2020 and Q1 2021, respectively. The spacecraft referred to in the context of Starship is the generation meant to follow 5A/5B: Turksat 6A and any follow-on variants. Turksat’s 6-series satellites will be designed and manufactured domestically rather than procured from non-Turkish heavyweights like Airbus or SSL. However, the Turksat 6A satellite’s current baseline specifications would make it an extremely odd fit for a launch vehicle as large as Starship/Super Heavy.
Curiously, in written statements to Turkish media outlets, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) referred to a “Turksat 6A2” satellite for the first time ever. Prior to comments made at the Satellite 2019 conference, Turksat’s prospects beyond 5A/5B were simply referred to as “Turksat 6A”, a ~4300 kg (9500 lb) domestically-built communications satellite scheduled for completion no earlier than the end of 2020. Turksat 5A and 5B will both be approximately 4500 kg (9900 lb), well within the capability of the flight-proven Falcon 9 rockets they are expected to launch on.
Why, then, might Starship “[potentially] work for the next Turksat project”, as suggested by Shotwell? Referring to what Turksat GM Cenk Sen then described as “6A2”, Shotwell noted that the satellite would be “quite a large, complex satellite.” While undeniably massive relative to almost anything else, the 4300-kg Turksat 6A is actually in the middle of the road (maybe even on the smaller side) relative to most geostationary communications satellites built and launched in the last few years.
WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER SPECULATION…
SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell would know this as intimately as anyone, given her essential role at the head of the launch services provider. Most recently, SpaceX used Falcon Heavy to launch Arabsat 6A (6500 kg/14,300 lb) to a uniquely high transfer orbit of ~90,000 km (56,000 mi). In the second half of 2018, Falcon 9 was also tasked with launching Telstar 18V (7060 kg/15,560 lb) and 19V (7076 kg/15,600 lb) to geostationary transfer orbits (GTO), with 19V technically becoming the heaviest commercial communications satellite ever launched.
SpaceX is also just a few days away from launching 60 Starlink test satellites, reportedly set to become the company’s heaviest payload ever with a mass greater than ~13,000 kg (30,000 lb). Put simply, SpaceX is about as familiar as one can possibly get with not only launching – but even building – truly massive and complex satellite payloads.
A rough visualization of the size of Starhopper, Starship, and Super Heavy, pre-steel. (Austin Barnard, Teslarati)
The first orbit-capable Starship prototype is currently being built in South Texas. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)
In short, it appears that “Turksat 6A2” may refer to an extremely ambitious follow-on to Turksat 6A (perhaps 6A1?). To warrant the use of Starship over the then highly-proven and well-paved Falcon 9 or Heavy, Turksat 6A2 would indeed have to be what Shotwell referred to as “quite a large, complex satellite”. In a recoverable configuration, Falcon 9 is capable of placing about 5500-6000 kg into a full GTO. Falcon Heavy allows for 8000-10000 kg, with the latter option assuming that all three boosters land on drone ships. Steel Starship’s performance – with or without tanker refueling – is effectively an unknown quantity at this point in time, although SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says more Starship info will be provided this year at a dedicated June 20th event.
Aside from questions of payload performance of Starship/Super Heavy relative to Falcon 9/Heavy, it’s unclear when the next-gen SpaceX rocket will actually be ready to start launching commercial payloads. Back in December 2018, Musk estimated that Starship had a 60% chance of reaching orbit by the end of 2020, with confidence on the rise as the company transitioned BFR’s structure from carbon composites to stainless steel. Four months after that estimate, a low-fidelity Starship prototype – nicknamed Starhopper – successfully completed two Raptor-powered test fires, straining a few feet into the air against large tethers. Meanwhile, Raptor testing continues in McGregor, Texas, while progress is also being made on what is said to be the first orbit-capable Starship prototype a few thousand feet from Starhopper.
A LONG PATH TO ORBIT
Before SpaceX can begin orbital launch attempts with Starship, the company will need to build a new launch complex (or develop a floating launch platform), complete with processing and integration facilities also built from the ground up. Additionally, at least one massive Super Heavy booster will be needed for Starship to deliver more than just itself to orbit. Starship’s unprecedented metallic heat shield will need to be made flight-ready, while a minimum of 38 Raptor engines will need to be built and tested. In short, a huge amount of work needs to be done before Starship and its associated facilities will be capable of launching high-value customer payloads.
An official render of a cargo Starship (formerly BFS), circa 2017. (SpaceX)
n other words, any prospective Cargo Starship customers will necessarily be shopping for launches in 2021-2022 at the absolute earliest. According to TAI’s Sen, SpaceX and its Starship vehicle will be just “one of the candidate[s]” eligible to compete for the Turksat 6A2 launch contract, hinting that these new comments are just the first of many more to come.
SpaceX is building a Starship prototype right here on the Space Coast
The unmistakable sounds of heavy machinery permeate the air around Cocoa's industrial area west of U.S. Highway 1, but there's a gleaming new entrant here.
Rising at this site on Cidco Road: A prototype of SpaceX's Starship, the company's next-generation vehicle aimed at taking humans and cargo into the depths beyond low-Earth orbit.
If the Starship prototype, also known as "Starhopper," sounds familiar, that's because it is – another has been under construction for months at SpaceX's facility in Boca Chica, Texas. Plans aren't to build a full-scale version of the stainless steel vehicle that will launch atop a Super Heavy booster, but instead smaller prototypes that can achieve sub-orbital flights to test engines, other hardware, and software.
And it's an intracompany competition, too.
"SpaceX is doing simultaneous competing builds of Starship in Boca Chica, Texas, and Cape Canaveral, Florida," CEO Elon Musk said this week. "Both sites will make many Starships. This is a competition to see which location is most effective. Answer might be both."
"Any insights gained by one team must be shared with the other, but other team not required to use them," he said.
In March, SpaceX filed permitting documents with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection indicating it planned on kicking off "plasma cutting operations" at the Cidco Road location. The communications obtained by FLORIDA TODAY show the department granted SpaceX air-related permissions.
Earlier this year, Musk confirmed both sites will ultimately construct the final versions of Starship and Super Heavy, the entirety of which will stand nearly 400-feet in height and target missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. Its first paying customer, a Japanese billionaire, has paid for several seats on a Starship to fly around the moon no earlier than 2023.
It remains unclear whether the Cocoa prototype will actually fly on sub-orbital "hops," but SpaceX could transport it to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for testing. The two sites are separated by about 15 miles in a straight line, but nearly double that if transporting over roads.
Also on Cidco Road is Rocket Crafters, a Space Coast-based company aiming to produce 3D-printed rocket fuel for its future Intrepid-1 rocket designed to launch small satellites.
At Launch Complex 40, meanwhile, SpaceX is targeting sometime next week for the launch of 60 Starlink satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission was delayed Thursday night due to software issues with the internet-beaming spacecraft, and a fix will push the launch "about a week," SpaceX said.
Quelle: Florida Today
Rio Grande Valley, Florida compete in construction of SpaceX Starship prototypes
Elon Musk, CEO and lead designer of SpaceX, confirmed via Twitter on May 14 that Starship prototypes are being built at Cape Canaveral in Florida as well as the company’s Boca Chica Beach site near Brownsville.
“SpaceX is doing simultaneous competing builds of Starship in Boca Chica Texas & Cape Canaveral Florida,” he tweeted in response to a photo posted of a Starship prototype under construction at a Cocoa, Fla., industrial park.
The process is also cooperative, Musk noted, writing that “any insights gained by one team must be shared with the other,” though neither team is required to incorporate the other’s ideas.
The first Starship prototype, dubbed “Starhopper,” was constructed at Boca Chica. The first tethered test firing of the non-orbital prototype’s single Raptor rocket engine took place on April 3. A follow-up test took place late on April 5, a brief video posted by Musk clearly showing the hopper lifting off the pad a few feet to tether limit.
April 5 was the most recent test at Boca Chica. Musk tweeted on April 26 that crews were preparing for untethered hover tests at the site. Earlier this month, Starhopper was fitted with appear to be attitude-control thrusters, necessary to helping maintain control during hover tests.
Cameron County, meanwhile, has approved another round of closures this month for SpaceX to resume testing. County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. announced May 14 the temporary closing of S.H. 4 from Oklahoma Avenue to Boca Chica Beach on May 28 between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. Alternative closure dates are May 29 and/or May 30, according to a statement from Trevino.
A second Starship prototype, this one with orbital capability, according to Musk, is under construction at SpaceX’s Boca Chica yard, about a mile and a half inland from the launch site, which lies less than 3,000 feet from the waters of the Gulf. The company is moving quickly to develop its Starship and Super Heavy (formerly Falcon Spaceship and Big Falcon Rocket, respectively), with the ultimate goal of getting humans to Mars.
The two Starhopper tests so far have involved one methane and liquid oxygen-powered Raptor engine. Musk also tweeted on May 14 that a fourth Raptor has been completed at SpaceX’s engine works in Hawthorne, Calif., a fifth is under construction and the company’s focus now is upping the build rate of Raptors Serial No. 6 through 10. The engines are being tested at SpaceX’s testing facility in McGregor.
The actual Super Heavy booster will require 31 Raptor engines to push the 100-passenger Starship into space, while Starship itself will feature another seven engines, according to SpaceX. Musk said in March that both the Starship and Super Heavy will be built simultaneously at Boca Chica and Cape Canaveral.
In addition to gearing up for more Starhopper testing at Boca Chica and making progress on an orbital prototype, SpaceX has poured a large concrete slab for a second hangar-sized metal building, under construction, at the Boca Chica yard.
“Both sites will make many Starships,” Musk tweeted on May 14. “This is a competition to see which location is most effective. Answer might be both.”
Quelle: The Monitor
SpaceX’s Starhopper moves closer to its first flight
The test rocket might finally see some air
SpaceX hopes to launch its Starhopper test vehicle skyward on its first flights soon. The short tests, which will take place out of SpaceX’s launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, will send the rocket to just under 1,640 feet (500 meters) high for its low-altitude flights and up to 16,400 feet (5,000 meters) high for its high-altitude flights, according to a modified application filed with the Federal Communications Commission. The heights match those that the company indicated in a similar filing last year.
The Starhopper is a very basic version of Starship, the massive passenger rocket that SpaceX wants to build to send people to the Moon and Mars. In order to prepare for the first Starship’s flight to space, SpaceX has been tinkering with the test Starhopper in Boca Chica. The vehicle boasts a similar structure to the final rocket, though it’s slightly smaller in size. Starhopper’s most important task is to test out the new, powerful Raptor engines that SpaceX has developed for the future deep-space rocket.
SpaceX fired up a Raptor engine on the bottom of the Starhopper for the first time in April. It only lifted a few inches since the vehicle was tethered to the ground. But now, SpaceX plans to perform what are known as “hop” tests with the vehicle (hence the nickname Starhopper), which will send the rocket to a low altitude above the Earth. The company will then attempt to touch the Starhopper back down on the ground with the vehicle’s three landing legs. The idea is to test out the landing capabilities the rocket’s going to use to touch down on Earth and other worlds. SpaceX performed similar tests with a vehicle known as Grasshopper back in 2012 and 2013 to try out the landing technique its Falcon 9 rockets now use.
Starhopper’s tethered tests only had one Raptor engine attached, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk indicated that, eventually, three engines would be added to the vehicle for higher flights. For now, images of the vehicle show that the Starhopper in Boca Chica doesn’t have any engines attached. That will change as the company gears up for the inaugural flights.
Cameron County, which is where Boca Chica is located, issued road closures around the launch site for May 28th, indicating that the flights could take place as soon as a week from now. However, SpaceX’s first round of tests occurred many weeks after the first round of road closures were issued, so it’s possible the first hop tests may still be a few weeks out.
Quelle: The Verge