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China to Send New Space Station Crew, SpaceX to Launch Private Mission to the Moon & New Chinese Rocket to Debut

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
November 28, 2022
HAKUTO-R lander on the moon. (Credit: ispace)

China will send a new crew to its space station and SpaceX will launch a private mission to land on the moon for a Japanese company this week. A Chinese company is also set to conduct the maiden launch of a new orbital booster during a week in which six flights are scheduled from three nations.

Orbital Launches
Nov. 29 – Dec. 3 2022

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
Nov. 28Soyuz-2.1b – RVSN RF~GLONASS-M 761 – VKS#Navigation Plesetsk
Nov. 29Long March 2F – CASC+Shenzhou 15 – CMSA^Tiangong crewJiuquan
Nov. 30Falcon 9 – SpaceX52 Starlink – SpaceXBroadbandVandenberg
Nov. 30Falcon 9 – SpaceXHakuto-R, Rashid, Lunar Flashlight – Various (see below)Lunar lander, rover, orbiter – Various (see below)Cape Canaveral
Nov. 30Soyuz-2.1a – RVSN – SF~Neitron No. 2 – VKS#ReconnaissancePlesetsk
Dec. 3Zhuque-2 – Land SpaceTBATBAJiuquan
~ Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation
# Russian Aerospace Forces
+ China Aerospace and Science Corporation
^ China Manned Space Agency
Source: Wikipedia

New Tiangong Crew

China is scheduled to launch three taikonauts for a six-month mission aboard Tiangong space station on Tuesday. The Shenzhou-15 mission will be commanded by Fei Junlong with crewmates Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu. They will be the fourth crew to occupy China’s first permanent space station.

Shenzhou-15 crew of Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu. (Credit: CNSA)

The taikonauts will join the current crew of Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe for the first handover of the station. Tiangong was left empty for periods of time after the missions of the first and second crews were completed.

Dong, Yang and Xuzhe were launched aboard Shenzhou 14 on June 5. They were aboard when the Wentian and Mengtian science modules were launched to complete the initial assembly of the orbiting laboratory. The Shenzhou-14 crew will return to Earth about a week after the launch of the new crew.

Credit: ispace

A Private Lunar Mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch ispace’s Hakuto-R lander and NASA’s Lunar Flashlight CubeSat orbiter to the moon on Nov. 30 at 3:39 a.m. EST (08:39 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It will be the company’s 56th launch of the year.

Falcon 9 Lunar Launch Key Payloads

Hakuto-RLunar lander ispaceJapan
RashidLunar roverUAESA*/MBRSC+UAE
Transformable robotLunar roverJAXA^Japan
Lunar FlashlightLunar orbiterNASAUSA
* UAE Space Agency
+ Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre
^ Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Source: Wikipedia

Hakuto-R will carry 30 kg (66 lb) of commercial and government payloads to the moon, including:

  1. United Arab Emirates’ Rashid lunar rover
  2. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) transformable lunar robot
  3. NGK Spark Plug Co. test module for a solid-state battery
  4. Mission Control Space Services Inc.’s artificial intelligence (AI) flight computer
  5. Multiple 360-degree cameras from Canadensys Aerospace
  6. Music disc with the song “SORATO” performed by Japanese rock band Sakanaction, an original supporter of Team HAKUTO during Google Lunar XPRIZE
  7. Panel engraved with the names of Team HAKUTO crowdfunding supporters during Google Lunar XPRIZE.
Rashid lunar rover (Credit: Wikieditsfxj)

Rashid is a collaboration of the UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. The rover is equipped with a microscopic camera, a thermal imaging camera and a Langmuir probe that will study lunar plasma in an attempt to discover why moon dust is sticky.

Japan’s transformable robot is designed to move across the surface to gather data for the design of a pressurized crewed rover. The robot was jointly developed by JAXA, TOMY Company, Sony Group and Doshisha University.

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight orbiter will use a laser to search for water ice in permanently shadowed areas of the moon.  The 6U CubeSat was developed by a team from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Goddard Space Flight Center, Marshall Space Flight Center and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

ispace began as Team HAKUTO to compete in the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, which sought to have private companies land rovers on the moon. The competition ended in March 2018 without a winner.

The Lunar Flashlight, flying as secondary payload on the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, will examine the moon’s surface for ice deposits and identify locations where resources may be extracted. (Credit: NASA)

ispace continued on after the prize, raising private funding as the company planned a series of missions to the moon. ispace has subsidiaries in the United States and Europe.

There’s more information about the lunar mission here.

Zhuque-2 rocket on the launch pad. (Credit: LandSpace)

LandSpace Launch

China’s LandSpace Technology Corp. will attempt to launch its Zhuque-2 (ZQ-2) rocket for the first time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Dec. 3. It is not known what payloads will be aboard the booster.

ZQ-2 is a two-stage rocket that will be capable of placing 4,000 kg (8,818 lb) into a 200 km (124-mile) high orbit or 2,000 kg (4,409 lb) into a 500 km (311-mile) high sun synchronous orbit. ZQ-2’s first stage uses four TQ-12 engines powered by liquid oxygen and methane (methalox). The second stage uses a TQ-12 engine and a TQ-11 that will act as a vernier thruster.

LandSpace is among a handful of commercial companies that are seeking to serve launch market in the wake of the Chinese government’s decision to allowed private firms to build rockets.

Falcon 9 rises above the marine layer with 46 Starlink satellites after launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base on July 10, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Other Launches

SpaceX is scheduled to launch 52 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Wednesday. It will be the 33rd launch of the year dedicated to deployment the broadband network.

Russia launched the GLONASS-M 761 navigation satellite aboard at Soyuz-2.1b booster from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Monday. A Soyuz-2.1a rocket is scheduled to launch the Neitron No. 2 reconnaissance satellite on Wednesday.

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