Space news weekly recap: SSLV maiden flight troubles to SpaceX replacing Russia

By | August 14, 2022

Last Sunday, ISRO’s maiden SSLV (Small Satellite Launch Vehicle) mission lifted off successfully. But something went wrong almost immediately when ISRO chairman S Somnath announced that the SSLV D1 mission suffered data loss. Before long, ISRO announced that the two satellites deployed by the launch vehicle would not be useful because they were put into the wrong orbit. From the partially successful SSLV launch to a video from a Chinese space station, here is our weekly space news recap.

ISRO’s first SSLV launch was a partial success

ISRO’s first SSLV mission lifted off from the Sriharikota space port at 9.18 AM on Sunday, August 7 but jubilation in the mission control room quickly turned into panic as the mission suffered from “data loss.”

The SSLV rocket was carrying Earth observation satellite EOS-2 and student satellite AzaadiSAT. It went on to complete all stages of lift-off successfully apart from the terminal stage, which was when ISRO scientists observed the data loss. After that, when deploying the satellites, the launch vehicle placed them in a 356 km x 76 km elliptical orbit instead of a 356 km circular orbit.

ISRO announced that the two satellites would no longer be useful but PTI reported that Space Commission member A S Kiran Kumar said that SSLV D1 will not be a setback and that the space agency will soon attempt another flight. But before that, a committee will analyse the launch and make recommendations for improvements. ISRO will come back for another attempt with SSLV-D2 after implementing the recommendations.

Russian rocket launching with iranian satellite A Soyuz-2.1b rocket booster with the Iranian satellite “Khayyam” blasts off from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan August 9, 2022. (Image credit: Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS)

Russia launches Iranian satellite

A Russian rocket carrying an Iranian satellite reportedly launched successfully on Tuesday as both countries seek to build closer ties, faced with Western sanctions. Reuters reported that the remote sensing satellite called “Khayyam” was launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome located in Kazakhstan at 11.22 AM GMT on Tuesday.

Tehran says the satellite is designed for scientific research, including radiation and environment monitoring for agriculture uses. Russia has been trying to deepen its ties with Iran since it began invading Ukraine on February 24. Tehran has rejected claims that Moscow can use the satellite to boost its intelligence capabilities in Ukraine, and said that Iran will have full control over it “from day one.”

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with Cygnus resupply spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, U.S., April 17, 2019. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via REUTERS)

Northrop chooses Firefly to replace Russian engines

Northrop Grumman had announced that it is partnering with rocket startup Firefly Aerospace to build a new version of its Antares rocket after its Russian-made engines were cut off from the United States following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Antares is a rocket that NASA uses to ferry cargo to the International Space Station. The new version that is being jointly developed will use seven Miranda engines that Firefly is currently developing. The two companies will also later work on an entirely new launch vehicle.

A full moon behind the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft during testing for the Artemis I mission. A full moon behind the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft in this picture taken on June 14, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

NASA to roll out Artemis I spacecraft

NASA’s first Artemis mission is expected to launch no earlier than August 29, during which the space agency will send various science and technology payloads to the Moon ahead of sending the next crewed mission to Earth’s satellite. Artemis I will be the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the moon. During the mission, the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket will carry ten shoebox-sized “CubeSats,” along with other science investigation payloads.

The American space agency is targeting the date of August 18 to move SLS and the Orion spacecraft to Launchpad 39B at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. NASA will livestream the link through its website and YouTube channel but ahead of that, it will hold teleconferences where it will discuss the Artemis I mission and ist scientific payloads.

Europe could turn to SpaceX

Reuters reports that the European Space Agency (ESA) is holding preliminary technical discussions with Elon Musk’s Space X. This could lead to the agency temporarily using one of SpaceX’s launchers after the blocking of access to Russia’s Soyuz rockets. Apart from SpaceX, the Japanese and Indian space agencies are also strong contenders to help the agency plug the temporary gap.

Until now, Europe has used the Italian Vega rocket for small payloads, Russia’s Soyuz for medium ones and the Ariane 5 for heavy missions. But since the development of Ariane 6, designed in two versions to replace both the Ariane 5 and Soyuz, has been delayed until next year, ESA needs a temporary replacement.

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