Roundup SpaceX hit the big five-oh as Boeing continued shuffling its feet and staring at the ground in this week's Queen-infused rundown of rocketry.
Rocket Lab summons spirit of Queen for 12th launch
Upstart small-sat launcher Rocket Lab has named its next mission, which will deploy payloads for customers including NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Sadly for reusability fans, there are no plans to carry out any further recovery testing on this mission.
Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand's Māhia Peninsula will again play host to the Electron launch, with a 14-day launch window commencing from 27 March 2020 (New Zealand time.) It'll be the 12th launch since company began operations.
As well as payloads for NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI), three payloads will also be onboard for the NRO. Procured under the NRO's Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract vehicle, the mission follows Rocket Lab's first NRO-dedicated mission, Birds of a Feather.
The mission has been named "Don't Stop Me Now" in recognition of Rocket Lab board member and avid Queen fan Scott Smith, who recently passed away.
SpaceX sends the last v1 Dragon to the ISS
SpaceX launched the final of the first generation of the Dragon freighter to the International Space Station (ISS) in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The 20th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission by the company to the ISS was grappled by Flight Engineer Jessica Meir on Monday and installed on the bottom of the Harmony module using the outpost's Canadarm2 robotic arm.
It marked the last time 'nauts will (in theory) have to grab a SpaceX spacecraft since the next generation of freighter will be able to dock directly with the ISS.
It is also the third time this particular Dragon has paid a visit to the ISS, having already been used for the CRS-10 and CRS-16 missions in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The first stage of the Falcon 9 used to launch the cargo freighter was also flight-proven, having been used for the CR-19 mission last December.
Following a 04:50 UTC launch on Saturday 7 March, the booster gave SpaceX the 50 landings it missed out on the previous launch with a successful touchdown of the first stage at Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) as Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Among the science and supplies carried by the Dragon was the Bartolomeo facility, supplied by ESA for attachment to the exterior of the Columbus Module. The Register spoke to ESA Director General Jan Wörner last year, who professed himself excited by the commercial opportunities possible from the platform.
The next freighter to be sent to the ISS by SpaceX (under the CRS-2 contract) will be a cargo version of the Crew Dragon, which will lack the amenities for launching crew (such as seats) but will allow NASA to send up a little more in the way of powered payload.
Boeing: I got 61 problems and they're all corrective and preventative actions
While a second flight decision has yet be made following the near-catastrophic flight of Boeing's Calamity Capsule, the team tasked with inspecting what went wrong has come up with a list of actions needed.
There were three major anomalies during the truncated uncrewed flight, which failed to reach the ISS as planned. A clock cock-up left the Calamity Capsule thinking it was further ahead in the mission than it actually was and a problem with the crew and service module separation process could have led to the two bouncing off it each other. Finally, space-to-ground communication didn't go too well.
Boeing, which has accepted the findings, has four categories of actions; code modifications, improvements in systems engineering, improvements in testing and finally ensuring product integrity. NASA will also perform an evaluation of Boeing's workplace culture before astronauts get crowbarred into Boeing's capsule.
Alarmingly, NASA has designated the anomalies that occurred during the mission as "high visibility close calls". To put that in context, the spacesuit leak in 2013 that almost did for ESA 'naut Luca Parmitano has the same designation. NASA is not kidding about here.
The agency will also "address areas where additional NASA 'safety nets' may be beneficial for all providers".
However, there remains no confirmation on if NASA will require Boeing to repeat the test flight. More work, according to the agency, is still required. ®