Following several launch delays last week, the week of Aug. 21 through Aug. 27 is set to see seven launches marking the 129th through 135th orbital launch attempts of 2023.
Starting the week off, SpaceX launched the Starlink Group 7-1 mission from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 4 East at the Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB). The second Starlink mission of the week was scheduled to launch right after Group 7-1 from SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), but was later delayed. During this, Russia launched its Progress resupply mission; North Korea attempted launch of its Manligyeong satellite; Rocket Lab launched its “We Love the Nightlife” mission; SpaceX then launched the Crew-7 mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A); JAXA will launch the SLIM and XRISM mission.
Starting the week off, SpaceX launched another Starlink mission on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 02:37 AM PDT (09:37 UTC). The launch has suffered a three-day delay due to Hurricane Hilary, which has developed in the northeast waters of the Pacific Ocean, impacting recovery operations for the mission.
This mission, dubbed Starlink Group 7-1, will be the first Group 7 launch. Falcon 9 lifted off from SLC-4E at the VSFB and place 21 Starlink v2 Mini satellites into a 286 by 296-kilometer orbit at 53.05 degrees.
The booster, B1061-15, has supported two crewed missions (Crew-1 and Crew-2), SXM-8, CRS-23, IXPE, two transporter missions, Globalstar FM15, EROS-C3, and five Starlink missions. Following the launch, the booster landed on SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) Of Course I Still Love You, which was tugged over 600 kilometers downrange by Scorpius. Similar to Bob and Doug, GO Beyond will provide ASDS support and recover both fairings from the pacific ocean.
This mission marked SpaceX’s 49th launch from SLC-4E, 58th launch of 2023, 218th landing, 144th consecutive landing, 189th re-flight of a booster, and 248th Falcon 9 launch.
Progress MS-24 was launched successfully atop the Soyuz 2.1a rocket and will deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch happened on Aug. 23, 2023, at 01:08 UTC from Site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The spacecraft autonomously docked with the Station on Aug. 25 at 03:46 UTC.
The spacecraft supporting this mission, designated 85P, is the 24th Progress-M spacecraft and masses 7.3 tonnes and can carry up to 2.5 tonnes of cargo, including propellant, water, food, equipment, and experiments to the ISS. Progress will remain docked to the Station for around six months; during this time it will provide support services, such as attitude control, orbit correction, and refueling.
After its stay is complete, the spacecraft will undock from the ISS and perform a de-orbit burn. Unlike Soyuz and Dragon, the Progress spacecraft does not have a heatshield and will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
Chŏllima 1 | Manligyeong 1 #2
On Aug. 23 at approximately 06:50 UTC, North Korea attempted to launch its Chŏllima 1 rocket, which failed during its third stage burn. North Korea was attempting to launch the second Manligyeong 1 payload, after the first was in May of this year in a launch attempt that was also unsuccessful. These satellites are military reconnaissance satellites, but few details are known.
After signing a deal with Rocket Lab in February of this year, the company launched its first mission for Capella Space’s Acadia satellite constellation.
Following an aborted launch attempt on July 30 due to low igniter pressure in an engine, and then several other launch delays, the Electron lifted off from Launch Complex 1B, at the Mahiah Peninsula, in New Zealand, on Aug. 23, at 23:45 UTC.
The launch involved a recoverable Electron that was also flying a reflown engine for the first time.
LAUNCH! Rocket Lab's recoverable Electron launches "We Love The Nightlife" from Launch Complex 1B at the Mahiah Peninsula in New Zealand.
— Chris Bergin – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) August 23, 2023
Electron placed the single satellite into a 640-kilometer circular mid-inclination orbit in what will be the first of four launches by Rocket Lab for the Acadia synthetic aperture radar (SAR) constellation — an Earth-imaging constellation slated to offer increased imaging capability and better communications connectivity for customers. These satellites are designed, manufactured, and operated by Capella Space.
After completing its original Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities contract, SpaceX launched the first of three extension missions, dubbed Crew-7. The mission lifted off from LC-39A on Aug. 26, at 3:27 AM EDT (07:27 UTC) where it will spend roughly a day raising its orbit before docking with the ISS, which was completed early on Sunday.
Crew Dragon C210-3 Endurance commander Jasmin Moghbeli of NASA, was joined by pilot Andreas Mogensen from ESA, and mission specialists Satoshi Furukawa of JAXA and Konstantin Borisov of Roscosmos. This marked the first time that four different space agencies are represented on a single Crew Dragon flight.
The crew joined the Expedition 69/70 crew on the ISS and conduct various experiments and maintenance tasks. Endurance and its crew will remain on Station for approximately 190 days, until early 2024 when the Crew-8 crew arrives at the ISS. They will then return to Earth in Endurance and be recovered by Shannon or Megan.
Crew-7’s Dragon arrived at Pad 39A in Florida ahead of its third mission to the @space_station. As teams prepare to launch Crew-7 and safely bring Crew-6 home, the Crew-8 astronauts completed their first week of training in California pic.twitter.com/BpEc6k6ZSj
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 17, 2023
The booster supporting this mission was brand new: B1081-1 and the newest booster in SpaceX’s fleet. Following its ascent, the booster performed three burns. First, the booster will use its center E9 engine and outer E1 and E5 engines to perform a boost backburn.
Next up, the center engine ignited again for the booster’s reentry burn – which was far shorter than SpaceX had advertised. Finally, the center engine, followed by the same two outer engines briefly, ignited, bringing the booster to a soft landing on SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1.
SpaceX timeline called for 11-seconds of entry burn (short, but for RTLS), but this Booster only burned for about three seconds. Then fought a fair bit during the return but still managed to land!
Secondary to the smooth crew launch on Dragon, which all went well, but it is… pic.twitter.com/MGfm9LEFJq
— Chris Bergin – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) August 26, 2023
This marked the first return to launch site mission on a NASA Commercial Crew flight, the 220th booster landing, and the 146th consecutive landing.
After being delayed several days, SpaceX’s second Starlink launch of the week launched another 22 Starlink v2 Mini satellites to low-Earth orbit on the Starlink Group 6-11 mission. Launching from SLC-40 at the CCSFS once again, this launch brought the total number of Starlink satellites launched to 5,005, of which ~4,660 should still be in orbit. Additionally, 4,566 of these are currently in their operational orbits.
Liftoff occurred on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 9:05 PM EDT (01:05 UTC on Aug. 27), and marked SpaceX’s 250th Falcon 9 launch (SpaceX’s pre-flight anomaly AMOS-6 counts as a Falcon 9 mission, but not launch; hence there being one more launch than mission). Following liftoff, Booster 1080-3 will completed a two-burn profile, landing on SpaceX’s ASDS Just Read the Instructions.
The initial orbit will be a 284 by 293-kilometer low-Earth orbit inclined 43.00 degrees. The satellites will then spend the coming months raising their orbits to the Group 6 orbit — a 530-kilometer circular orbit inclined 43 degrees.
JAXA is set to launch the smart lander for investigating the moon (SLIM) and X-ray imaging and spectroscopy mission (XRISM) atop the H-IIA 202 rocket on Aug. 28, at 00:26 UTC. The mission will lift off from LA-Y1 at the Tanegashima Space Center, in Japan and mark the JAXA’s first mission of 2023.
SLIM will be Japan’s first lunar surface mission and will demonstrate the ability to precisely land on the surface. During its descent, it will utilize data collected by JAXA’s SELENE lunar orbiter mission to land within 100 meters of a target. The lander will explore the lunar surface near the Marius Hills Hole, a possible entrance to a lava tube. H-IIA will place this spacecraft into a trans-lunar injection.
XRISM is a joint NASA and ESA mission that aims to study the structure of the universe, outflows of galaxy nuclei, and dark matter. Onboard are a pair of instruments: Resolve is a soft X-ray spectrometer that uses a lightweight X-ray mirror and microcalorimeter to detect energy and intensity of X-rays with an accuracy of 5-7 eV in the .3-12 keV range. The second instrument is Xtend, a sift X-ray imager that uses four CCD detectors and an identical X-ray mirror to cover a large field of view of 38 arc minutes on a side in the .4-13 keV range. This will enable detailed studies of the physics and chemistry of various cosmic phenomena, such as black holes, galaxy clusters, supernova remnants, and more.
The satellite will be operated from low-Earth orbit.
(Lead image: Crew Dragon Endurance ahead of the Crew-7 mission. Credit: SpaceX)