Launches and spaceflight updates: Week of August 1, 2022

Rocket heading upward.
Among important launches: the August 4, 2022 launch of South Korea’s 1st moon mission, via Stephen Marr (@spacecoast_stve on Twitter). He wrote: “Go Falcon 9! The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter satellite is making its way to the moon!”

Looking for the current Launches blog? Click here.

August 4 update: Elon Musk hints at Starship launch

From Lia: Elon Musk casually said on Twitter this week that SpaceX aims to launch Starship’s first successful orbital flight “between one and 12 months from now.” So the trailblazing rocket could take to the skies as soon as a couple of weeks from now, or as late as next summer. And either timeline is conceivable, for a company with a historically fast-paced launch schedule. Writing for Teslarati this week, Eric Ralph pointed out that Musk’s prediction of one-to-12 months remains:

…open-ended while simultaneously setting some reasonable expectations about the likelihood of success.

It’s worth noting Musk’s use of the word successful. Is Musk anticipating multiple attempts to achieve a successful first orbital flight? Will Musk mark success simply by lofting Starship to orbit? Or will Starship need to haul up some satellites, maybe some Starlinks, for Musk to feel it’s been successful? In terms of ultimate goals, the SpaceX team has said it hopes Starship will be able to make a loop around the moon in 2023 and land on Mars by 2026.

In the tweet that prompted the Twitter exchange leading to Musk’s “between one and 12 months” comment, Musk had shared a video titled Why Starship is the Holy Grail For SpaceX. He commended the video, calling it a good piece.

Read more about Starship v SLS: It’s a mini space race!

A very tall shiny cylindrical object stands upright with blue lighting casts upon it. A man stands below on a stage while a crowd of people faces him.
On February 10, 2022, Elon Musk gave a presentation about future launches of the Starship/ Super Heavy rocket. The backdrop was the recently stacked launch vehicle. Image via Everyday Astronaut.

August 3 update: South Korea’s 1st moon mission to launch Thursday

From Dave: Heads up! South Korea’s first mission to the moon – the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, dubbed Danuri, meaning moon enjoy, by the South Korean Ministry of Science – will launch Thursday (August 4, 2022). It’ll go up at 7:08 p.m. ET (23:08 UTC) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, which was seen earlier this week fueled for the mission and awaiting the launch at Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida.

The launch will be live streamed. Watch it at EarthSky or at YouTube.

NASA is flying its ShadowCam instrument aboard South Korea’s lunar orbiter. It’ll be one of five instruments flown on the mission.

Read more: South Korea’s 1st moon mission to launch August 4 … Watch here.

An image of a permanently shadowed lunar crater, side by side with an image of a spacecraft mapping the crater from above.
Artist’s concept of the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter mapping permanently shadowed areas of the lunar surface. The KPLO, South Korea’s first lunar mission, launches Friday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 lift vehicle. Image courtesy of KARI.

August 1 update 2: Chinese space junk struck Borneo

From Dave: Pieces of a Chinese rocket booster – from a Long March 5B that lifted off for the Tiangong space station on July 24, 2022 – apparently crashed to Earth during an uncontrolled re-entry on Sunday, July 31. The errant 22-ton booster put on a tremendous light show as it plunged through the skies over Borneo. It mostly fell into the Sulu Sea, according to Spaceflight Now. But the Borneo Post reported on August 1 that a resident of Batu Niah – a small town on the island of Borneo – discovered metal fragments embedded about a meter deep in the compound around his house.

Then – on Twitter on August 1 – spaceflight experts shared images and videos showing impact debris and craters on the island of Borneo. Astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (@planet4589 on Twitter) shared what he says shows impact debris and craters in both Malaysia and Indonesia on the island of Borneo.

Launches: People behind a police cordon looking at an object on the grass.
Authorities in Indonesia gather around a piece of suspected Chinese space junk that fell onto the island of Borneo Sunday, July 31, 2022. Several pieces of debris have been discovered in both Malaysia and Indonesia. Image via Twitter.

August 1 update: SpaceX junk fell on an Aussie sheep farm

From Dave: Scientists at the China National Space Administration aren’t the only rocketeers raining random space junk onto Earth in recent days.

It seems SpaceX might have beat the Chinese to the (literal) punch, with an incident that began on July 9 with a loud sonic boom. The boom was heard over southern New South Wales and even in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. There was speculation then that the boom might have been caused by a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched in November 2020.

Bottom line: Another busy week for spaceflight as South Korea launches its 1st mission to the moon.

Looking for last week’s spaceflight updates? Click here

August 1, 2022

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