Double helping of delays for SpaceX as Starlink, ANASIS-II missions cling to terra firma

Also: Hope Probe hopes for lift-off, Virgin teases SpaceShipTwo interior, Ariane 6 slips

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In brief SpaceX's 10th Starlink mission remained resolutely welded to the launchpad over the weekend as the company decided to stand down from a 11 July launch attempt in order to "allow more time for checkouts".

The mission, carrying another 57 of the company's internet-slinging spacecraft and a pair of BlackSky satellites, had already been scrubbed on 26 June due to those pesky checkouts and again on 8 July due to the weather.

The company managed a successful launch of a GPS satellite for the US government on 30 June and had hoped to squeeze Starlink in before a military mission for South Korea. However, the Starlink satellites have thus far resisted attempts to send them to orbit.

Still, Starlink isn't alone. That South Korea ANASIS-II launch has also been delayed as the company ponders yet another technical problem, this time with the second stage.

UAE Hopes for a Mars mission launch this week

Joining the list of delayed missions is the Emirates Mars Mission, which has been pushed back to a 17 July launch atop a Japanese H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center due to weather.

The probe is designed to observe the Martian atmosphere throughout the planet's seasonal cycles once it arrives at the red planet in 2021.

Equipped with three instruments – an infrared spectrometer, an imager, and an ultraviolet spectrometer – the 1,350kg "Hope Probe" is expected to spend one Martian year (approximately two Earth years) in orbit following its arrival after a near-half-billion kilometre cruise. Assuming it manages to lift off.

The launch window is a relatively brief 15 July to 12 August. ESA has already thrown in the towel on launching its rover during that critical period while NASA's next mission to Mars has continued to slip.

That new spaceship smell – Virgin Galactic to show off SpaceShipTwo's cabin

While it has yet to set a definitive date for when the first of its paying passengers might take a ride on Richard Branson's rocketplane, Virgin Galactic has promised a glimpse of where those well-heeled buttocks might be clenched during powered flight, glide and touchdown.

The grand unveiling is due on 28 July and the company has promised that the interior of SpaceShipTwo will provide "quietly absorbing periods of sensory intensity and offering each astronaut a level of intimacy required for personal discovery and transformation."

Hopefully it'll also be wipe-down and feature a decent supply of sick bags, based on this hack's own experiences.

While a glimpse at the couches where those able to afford a jaunt aboard Branson's space jalopy will recline is all well and good, its customers are likely more keen to know when they might fly rather than where they might one day get to sit.

Ariane 6 joins the list of late launchers

The first launch of ESA's Ariane 5 replacement, the imaginatively named Ariane 6, has been pushed deep into 2021 with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic listed as one of the reasons.

Expected to cost less than its predecessor, Ariane 6 will come in two flavours; the A62, with two solid rocket motors and capable of sending more then 5.5 metric tons to sun-synchronous orbit, and a four solid-rocket motor version which can send 11 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit. The core stages are liquid fuelled, while the solids share the P120 of the Vega C.

The delay helps show that competition remains alive and well between space agencies, at least as far delays in rocket-building go. ®


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