SpaceX, Boeing & Firefly File FCC Applications for Fall Flights

Starship hopper under construction at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has applied for a temporary Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license to fly its Starship prototype to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles) from its Boca Chica test site in Texas.

The approval would be valid for hops from Oct. 11, 2020 to April 11, 2021. Starship prototypes have flown to an altitude of 150 meters from Boca Chica.

Boeing has filed for a FCC license for its second Starliner orbital flight test. The application covers a six-month period from Nov. 1, 2020 to May 1, 2021.

The uncrewed Starliner test is a repeat of a flight that went awry last December. The spacecraft failed to dock with the space station due to software and communications problems.

Firefly Aerospace has filed for approval for the maiden flight of its Firefly Alpha booster from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The approval would be valid from Nov. 21, 2020 until May 21, 2021.

Apha is designed to loft 1 metric ton into low Earth orbit and 630 kg into a 500 km sun synchronous orbit at a dedicated mission cost of $15 million.

Dispute Erupts Over SpaceX’s Boca Chica Test Facility

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

A dispute has erupted between several environmental groups and the federal government over the impact of SpaceX’s test operations at Boca Chica Beach in south Texas.

The issue: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved SpaceX’s plan to use the coastal site for launching its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets up to 12 times per year.

However, Elon Musk’s company has instead been using its facilities to develop and flight test its larger Starship and Super Heavy boosters. The resulting impacts have been much greater than anticipated under the original proposal, environmental groups argue.

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SpaceX Looks to Build a Resort at Boca Chica

Credit: STARSHIP CAM

Having driven out most residents of Boca Chica Village, SpaceX is now looking to develop a resort adjacent to its Starship launch and test facility in Texas.

“Boca Chica Village is our latest launch site dedicated to Starship, our next generation launch vehicle. SpaceX is committed to developing this town into a 21st century Spaceport. We are looking for a talented Resort Development Manager to oversee the development of SpaceX’s first resort from inception to completion,” the advertisement said. 

The announcement is below.

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SpaceX Conducts Starship Static Fire, Plans 150-meter Hop

SpaceX conducted a successful static fire on its Starship vehicle at its south Texas test site on Thursday, paving the way for an 150-meter hop as early as Monday.

Cameron County has issued the following notice for the closing of Boca Chica Beach and Highway 4.

TEMP. CLOSURE DATETIME OF CLOSURECURRENT BEACH STATUS
Primary DateAugust 2, 20208:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.Closure Scheduled
Backup DateAugust 3, 20208:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.Closure Scheduled
Backup DateAugust 4, 20208:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.Closure Scheduled

A Look at SpaceX’s and Virgin Galactic’s Hypersonic Plans

I found this video entertaining. I’m not sure this guy has any grasp of the technological challenges or how SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are trying to tackle it.

He also calls a pair of routine pilot proficiency flights of WhiteKnightTwo at Spaceport America mysterious. Nothing really unusual about them. They conducted these flights at Mojave regularly.

Hypersonic sounds great, but it’s not clear when or if it will carry passengers. What we might be left with are hypersonic weapons indistinguishable from nuclear missiles. The chance of an accidental nuclear exchange could become much greater.

SpaceX Ends Lease at Port of Los Angeles

SpaceX’s plan to build components for its Starship and Super Heavy boosters at the Port of Los Angeles is dead — again.

Elon Musk’s company gave notice to the port on March 27 that it was backing out of a lease to locate a research, development, manufacturing and recovery facility at a dilapidated structure on Terminal Island.

SpaceX gave notice just over a month after harbor commissioners approved a 10-year lease with two 10-year extensions on Feb. 21. The agreement was later approved by the Los Angeles City Council.

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Starship Static Fire Successful

This is the first time that SpaceX’s Starship was able to fire its Raptor engine successfully. And the vehicle is still standing at the company’s Boca Chica test facility in Texas. Three previous versions of the vehicle failed.

The successful test paves the way for a flight test to 150 meters.

A Closer Look at Lunar Landers Proposed by Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA announced that three U.S. companies will develop the human landers that will land astronauts on the Moon beginning in 2024 as part of the Artemis program. These human landers are the final piece of the transportation chain required for sustainable human exploration of the Moon, which includes the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and the Gateway outpost in lunar orbit. 

The awardees for NASA’s Human Landing System contracts are Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, Dynetics (a Leidos company) of Huntsville, Alabama, and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California. These teams offered three distinct lander and mission designs, which will drive a broader range of technology development and, ultimately, more sustainability for lunar surface access. 

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SpaceX’s Starship Survives Cryogenic Pressurization Test

The fourth time was a charm for SpaceX’s Starship.

The fourth version of the space vehicle passed a cryogenic pressurization test that had destroyed three previous versions. Liquid nitrogen was used to test whether the vehicle could hold cryogenic propellants at pressure.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the successful test paves the way for the installation of a single Raptor engine. A static fire of the engine could come as early as this week, he said.

If that test is successful, engineers will attempt to fly the reusable vehicle to 150 meters above SpaceX’s test site near Boca Chica Beach in southern Texas.

Musk said the next version of Starship, SN5, will be fitted out with three Raptor engines to conduct higher flight tests.