This Month in Space – October 2019

New Starship

SpaceX officially revealed updates for it’s Starship. A spacecraft designed to deliver human or payloads to Mars and beyond. Elon said the Starship could launch 100 humans into space simultaneously. First announced in IAC 2016, Starship is slowly making its way into existence.

The technical specifications are off the charts. While talking about the specification, we need to think in 2 stages!

First, there is the starship itself. 9 meters in diameter. 50 meters in height. Six raptor engines burning 1200 ton of Methane and Oxygen. You can put 100+ ton of payload inside its 9m by 18 m fairing. 

Second, the booster. The first stage of the rocket which will lift the Starship to LEO. Super Heavy booster has 37 raptor engine. 9 meter diameter. 68 meter height. Housing 3300 ton propellant. Producing 72 MN thrust. 

The Starship we saw in September, is only Mk1. 20 km hover test will be done with Mk3. 

When I saw Elon making announcement for BFR, or starship as we know it today, I was amused. I wasn’t exactly sure if it would ever come into reality. I thought Falcon 9 was the peak of innovation. A big rocket that goes up and comes back on its own, only to fly back up again. Why would you need a bigger launcher. I still don’t know if we truly need a bigger rocket. With the money being poured into Starship, there could very well be a need.

European Satellite Dodges Starlink 44

SpaceX again. This time, not so happy news. When Starlink satellites were launched we raised a concern. What happens to radio inference? Will it fill the space with spurious noise? What about astronomy? How do we get a deep space image when Starlink satellites are bouncing back to earth. What happens to space debris problem? Of all the good things SpaceX have done, personally I wasn’t 100% happy with Starlink. 

NORAD predicted Starlink 44 satellite was headed directly towards on of the ESA satellites. The predicted date of collision was on Sept. 2. Possibility was 1 in 1,000 — 10 times higher than ESA’s threshold. When ESA operators contacted SpaceX, there was no response. I guess this is because Starlink 44 is eventually destined for deorbiting maneuver tests. So to SpaceX, Starlink 44 might not be so valuable. Eventually, ESA operator performed a maneuver to avoid collision. 

I don’t know what went behind the curtains. However, I’m pretty annoyed with this news. SpaceX should thake debris problem more seriously. 

ISRO’s Moon Landing

India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission didn’t go 100% as planned. I’d be surprised if it did. Space is hard. Challenging. We’ll never have enough resources to complete a mission with 100% success. 

With what I could read up online, ISRO’s moonlander couldn’t slow down before touchdown. So it was a crash landing. Since then, the lander went radio silent. According to ISRO, The Lunar lander was spotted by the Lunar orbiter days later. The Lunar orbiter is functioning well.

Regardless of the statistics or the numbers, I this as an absolute win.

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