What’s Happening in Space (and on Earth)

There seems to be a lot going on at the moment to do with spacecraft launches and space in general. There’s a Rocket Lab Electron due to lift off on Wednesday, Beresheet is going to land on the Moon on the 11 April and SpaceX’s Starhopper might make its first tentative lift off with its one Raptor engine. In other developments, Boeing announced a delay to its CST-100 Starliner debut, possibly pushing it out until August, by which time SpaceX is scheduled to have already taken astronauts to the International Space Station on its Crew Dragon.

The Israeli entry in the unclaimed Google Lunar X Prize, Beresheet, is due to touch down on the lunar surface on 11 April. This will be the first commercial probe on the Moon, every other one has been paid for by governments. The touchdown will be after a lengthy flight from Earth that started on 21 Feb this year and continued through three orbits around the Earth in ever increasing size until it intercepts the Moon’s orbit where it will complete two orbits before beginning its descent onto the lunar surface.

Beresheet (Credit: IsraelIL)

Rocket Lab was due to launch an Electron rocket today from its launchpad on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand’s North Island. There was a problem with a video transmitter that stopped the launch happening. If all goes well and the instrument is repaired then the launch will happen at 11:30am, local time, on Wednesday. The rocket is carrying the US DARPA R3D2 satellite, which stands for RF Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration and a picture of the satellite is the featured image.

Electron waiting to launch today (Credit: Rocket Lab @RocketLab)

With all of the talk lately about the on going delays with the Space Launch System (SLS), all eyes are on Elon Musk’s SpaceX and it’s Starhopper which will test some of the systems for the Super Heavy rocket planned to power the Starship to the Moon and Mars. At SpaceX’s site in Texas, a rudimentary rocket looking stainless steel container has been taking shape over the last few weeks. It now has one Raptor engine attached and looks set to begin trials within the next few weeks, possibly with the first one being no higher than a 1000 ft hop, according to a NOTAM for the area around SpaceX’s site.

The Starhopper with Raptor engine (Credit: @BocaChicaGal)