Thursday, July 1, 2021

End of June Update

Chronological list of upcoming manned flights with announced dates is:

7/20/21    US - New Shepard with 4 people

9/15/21    US - Crew Dragon Inspiration4 with 4 people

10/5/21    Russia - Soyuz MS-19 with 3 people

10/31/21   US - Crew Dragon CREW3 with 4 people

12/8/21    Russia - Soyuz MS-20 with 3 people

For the 5 spacecraft from the United States:

Crew Dragon - The launch of the CREW3 mission has been delayed a week until Oct 31. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Dragon is 12.

Starliner - only change is that Boeing is no ruling out a crewed test flight before the end of 2021. The uncrewed test flight is still scheduled for July 30. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Starliner is 0.

Orion - no change. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Orion is 0.

SpaceShip - There is talk that Richard Branson might try to fly on the next mission during the Fourth of July holiday, so that he can beat Jeff Bezos into space, but there is no announced flight date. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on SpaceShip is 8.

New Shepard - The crew for the inaugural July 20th manned flight has been reduced from 6 to 4. It will include Jeff Bezos, his younger brother, Mark, Wally Funk, the lady that was one of the unofficial Mercury 13 female astronauts and finally the winner at $28 million of the auctioned seat. Funk at age 83 will be the older person to fly into space, beating John Glenn's record of 77 when he flew in 1998 on the Shuttle. 120,000 people have signed a petition that if Bezos goes into space, he should not return to Earth. These people are uninformed because it is a sub-orbital mission. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on New Shepard is 4, a decrease of 2 due to the smaller crew on the first mission.

For Russia - no change. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Soyuz is 9.

For China - on June 16 the Shenzhou 12 capsule launched into space with a crew of 3. It successfully docked with the new Chinese space station for a 3 month stay. Shenzhou 12 brings the total to 12 for people going into space for 2021. Shenzhou 13, with another crew of 3, is planned for October 2021. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Shenzhou is 6.

For India - no change. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Gaganyaan is 0.

My current estimate for 2021 is now down to 39 and decrease of 2 since the last estimate. The decrease is due to only 4 people flying on the first manned New Shepard capsule, not the full compliment of 6.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

End of May Update

For the 5 spacecraft from the United States:

Crew Dragon - CREW2 launched to the ISS on April 23 with 4 people, raising the 2021 count for people launched into space to 7. SpaceX is scheduled to launch the private Inspiration4 mission on September 15 and the CREW3 to the ISS on October 23. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Dragon is a firm 12.

Starliner - The unmanned test mission to the ISS is scheduled for July 30. Review of the data from that flight is anticipated to take 6 months. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Starliner is 0.

Orion - Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Orion is 0.

SpaceShip - Virgin Galactic flew a 17 minute test flight with 2 pilots to a height of 89km (55mi) on May 22, raising the 2021 count to 9. They say there will be 3 more test flights before beginning commercial operation. The next flight will be with 4 VG employees and 2 pilots, the next flight is with Richard Branson himself and the last test flight will be with 2 Italian Air Force persons. No dates have been announced for the test flights. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on SpaceShip is 8, an increase of 2.

New Shepard - The auction for the one of the seats on New Shepard's first flight is up to $3 million. The winner of the auction will join 5 other Blue Origin employees in the capsule. The inaugural flight is scheduled for July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on New Shepard is 6, an increase of 4.

Russia - has announced the crews for their 2 upcoming tourist Soyuz missions. In October, a Russian actress and her director will join a cosmonaut and in December, Japanese billionaire, Yusaku Maezawa, and his production assistant will join a cosmonaut. Maezawa has already purchased the flight of SpaceX's Dear Moon mission, that will loop around the moon on a Starship with a crew of 8 people. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Soyuz is 9, an increase of 3.

China - has launched the first module of their new space station and then launched a cargo mission that successfully docked with the module. They said they will launch a crew of 3 to the station in June. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Shenzhou is 6.

India - no updates. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Gaganyaan is 0.

My current estimate for 2021 is now up to 41 and increase of 9 since the last estimate. The increase is due to, 2 more on SpaceShip, (now 8), 4 more on New Shepard, (now 6) and 3 more on Soyuz, (now 9).

Thursday, April 22, 2021

April Update before MASS meeting of People in Space in 2021

Early update in April to show at the MASS meeting. Anticipating that SpaceX will launch CREW2 tomorrow morning, April 23. That will bring the 2021 count up to 7 because the 4 on Dragon will join the 3 people launches on Soyuz April 9.

Here are the updates on manned space programs since my last blog.

For the 5 spacecraft from the United States:

Crew Dragon - CREW2 will launch on the morning of April 23. The only delay might be for weather in the abort zones. That will be SpaceX's third manned flight. CREW3 is not scheduled for no-earlier-than October 23, 2021. 4 already launched and Inspiration4 and CREW3 should add another 8. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Dragon is 12.

Starliner - Due to the lack of availability at the ISS with docking ports and conflicts with other Atlas 5 launches for DoD, OFT-2, the redo of the unmanned test mission has been delayed to August-September of 2021. The CFT mission with crew is probably delayed to February of 2022. I'm lowering my guess for Starliner to zero from 3. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Starliner is 0.

Orion - The core stage for the unmanned Artemis 1 should be sailing to KSC after the successful "Green Run" test. Artemis 1 might happen in 2021 but no manned mission will occur this year. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Orion is 0.

SpaceShip - No change on Virgin Galactic time line. New VSS Imagine can handle 6 passengers plus 2 pilots which in more than the original VSS Unity which can handle only 4 passengers. But I'm keeping my guess the same because the early flights might not fill the load capacity. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on SpaceShip is 6.

New Shepard - Blue Origin flew their 15th unmanned mission on April 14. It was a success but no word on when they will carry people. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on New Shepard is 2.

Russia successfully launch 3 people on Soyuz MS-18 on April 9. No change on Russian estimate. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Soyuz is 6.

China says they will launch Shenzhou 12 in June possibly with a crew of 3. The first module of their space station is scheduled to be launched at the end of April. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Shenzhou is 6.

India has no updates. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Gaganyaan is 0.

My current estimate for 2021 is now down to 32 people. A decrease of 3 from last month's estimate. The decrease is due to Starliner which I think will fly zero rather than 3 in 2021.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

March Update of Putting People in Space in 2021

 Here it is April and no one has yet launched into space during 2021. That is 3 months or 1/4th of the year gone by. But April should see some launches. The Russians plan to launch Soyuz with 3 people on April 9th and NASA will launch 4 people on the CREW2 Dragon on April 22nd.

Here are the updates that occurred since my last blog.

For the 5 spacecraft from the United States:

Crew Dragon - CREW2 is scheduled for launch to ISS on April 22. The first private Dragon launch, Inspiration4, is set for no-earlier than September 15 and the CREW3 mission is targeted also for September. The Inspiration4 mission will be pretty cool. The 3 day mission will not dock with ISS but will travel in a higher orbit at 335 miles (ISS is at 250 miles) and SpaceX plans to add a new large viewing window at the top of the Dragon capsule rather than the ISS docking assembly. Three missions of 4 people. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Dragon is 12.

Starliner - Because of the busy ISS schedule, Boeing's second unmanned mission to the ISS, OFT-2, has been delayed to mid-May. Their test mission with a crew of 3, CFT, is still scheduled for September. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Starliner is 3.

Orion - Although NASA had a good "Green Run" test firing on March 18, an unmanned test launch of Orion may be delayed to 2022. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Orion is 0.

SpaceShipTwo - Virgin Galactic just announced the completion of their second active suborbital spacecraft, VSS Imagine. It joins VSS Unity in the fleet. Unity is scheduled to make a test flight in May probably with 2 test pilots as soon as electromagnetic interference issues are remedied. Imagine has its first flight planned for this Summer. I'm assuming that it would carry a crew of 4 or more. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on SpaceShipTwo is 6.

New Shepard - Blue Origin is their usual self, meaning that they haven't had any recent news. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on New Shepard is 2.

Russia will launch Soyuz MS-18 on April 9th with one American, Mark Vande Hei, and 2 cosmonauts. Their Soyuz MS-19 is scheduled for September 22nd with a cosmonaut and 2 Russian tourists, a Russian actress and her film director. The night of April 12th will be "Yuri's Night" an annual celebration of Yuri Gagarin's first manned flight. This year will be the 60th anniversary. Victor Glover, the only rookie on the CREW1 mission, was the 582nd person to travel into space since 1961. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Soyuz is 6.

China is set to launch in April their first module, Tianhe, of their new space station. After some supply missions, China said they will be launching a manned Shenzhou 12 capsule to the station by mid-year. Details are sketchy, but in the past they have put 2 or 3 taikonauts in past capsules. On March 4th, ABC News said China is planning 4 manned missions to their space station this year. 12 people were training for these missions. That sounds a little too ambitious, but I am upping my guess to 6 from 0.  Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Shenzhou 6.

India had 4 astronauts return from a year of training in Russia. Their plan is still an unmanned test of the new Ganganyaan capsule this year and a manned launch in 2022. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Gaganyaan is 0.

My current estimate for 2021 is now up to 35 people. An increase of 6 over last month's estimate. The extra 6 all came from the China estimate.






Saturday, March 6, 2021

 Status of Putting People in Space in 2021

Since the MASS group has created a contest to guess the number of people that go into space (using the US Air Force definition of 50 mile height) in 2021, I thought I'd blog about the status of each of the world's effort on a monthly basis.

MASS member guesses range from: Beth 63, Carol 50, Harry 54, Keith 42, Dean 40, Phil 36, Hank 32, Me 27, Ed 20 and Silvio 6.

As of March 6, 2021, no one has yet launched in 2021. It's been a year of delays so far, but I hope the year finishes strong. My guess in the text below results in a count of 29, so I guess I'm becoming more optimistic. I originally thought China would launch 3 but now its zero but I think Virgin Galactic will launch 6, originally I thought 3 and I think Blue Origin will launch 2, originally I thought zero.

The United States will probably put the most people in space and they could come from these sources:

  • Crew Dragon - SpaceX has already launched 2 capsules with people. Another mission, CREW2, is planned for NASA with 4 people on April 20. CREW3 with another 4 people is set for the Fall of 2021. SpaceX also has a totally civilian mission, Inspiration4, purchased by billionaire Jared Issacman with 4 people, scheduled for the 4th quarter of 2021. The other private flight using Dragon was purchased by Axiom Space and is scheduled to fly with 4 people in January of 2022. Anticipated people to fly to space in 2021 on Dragon is 12.
  • Starliner - Boeing's manned capsule has still to do an unmanned test called OFT-2 before it will be rated for people. OFT-2 was scheduled for April 2, 2021 but the cold snap in Texas and the subsequent power failures have set back the software testing for over a week. Because the Starliner is scheduled to dock with the ISS and the ISS will be a busy place with Soyuz and Dragon docking during April, OFT-2 will probably be delayed to May or later. ULA who handles the Atlas V rocket that launches Starliner, has 3 military launches scheduled for May to August and I'm not sure when they will shoe-horn OFT-2 in. Currently the first manned flight, BOE-CFT with a crew of 3, is scheduled for September of 2021. Anticipated people to fly in space in 2021 on Starliner is 3.
  • Orion - NASA's capsule that will fly manned on the SLS rocket during the Artemis 2 mission. But it is still waiting for the initial SLS unmanned flight of Artemis 1. Artemis 1 is scheduled for November of 2021. But the core stage of the SLS rocket is still at the Stennis testing site awaiting a second "green run" test firing. The second "green run" test firing was scheduled for February 25 before a problem with a liquid oxygen valve was discovered. No date has been announced for the second "green run" test firing. After the firing, the core stage will to be shipped to Florida for integration of the full SLS rocket and unmanned Orion capsule. Anticipated people to fly in space in 2021 on Orion is 0.
  • SpaceShipTwo - Virgin Galactic's suborbital spacecraft, dropped from the carrier plane WhiteKnightTwo, has flown twice with test pilots and employees. The 6 minute flight originates and lands on an airstrip at the Mojave Air & Spaceport in New Mexico. They were scheduled to fly February 13, 2021 with 2 test pilots but trouble with the electronics has delayed the flight to May 2021. SpaceShipTwo is capable of carrying 6 passengers and 2 pilots. I think they'll fly twice in 2021 with the second flight carrying some employees again. Anticipated people to fly in space in 2021 on SpaceShipTwo is 6.
  • New Shepard - from Blue Origin, the space company of Amazon's Jeff Bezos, is a suborbital capsule that has flown 14 times from the Corn Ranch in West Texas. All flights have been unmanned but the capsule can carry 7 paying tourists on an 11 minute suborbital flight and parachute landing. A fifteenth unmanned test flight was expected in late February but it has not materialized. Plans were to carry the first crew 6 weeks after that. My guess is that they will fly with people once in 2021. Anticipated people to fly in space in 2021 on New Shepard is 2.
Russia has been flying people on its Soyuz capsule reliably for 50+ years. The capsule can hold 3 people and they typically fly 2 missions a year to the ISS. Soyuz 64S is scheduled for April 10 and Soyuz 65S is set for September 22. Anticipated people to fly in space in 2021 on Soyuz is 6.

China has also launched people into space using its Shenzhou capsule based on the Soyuz design. The last flight launched on October 16, 2016 with 2 taikonauts. Shenzhou can carry up to 3 people. China plans to start building another space station, starting with the Tianhe core module, in 2021. They anticipate 4 crewed launches in support of the station by 2023. China is also developing a larger capsule that can carry up to 6 people and launch on a Long March 5B rocket. So far no launch date has been announced. I think the moon rover, Mars rover and space station launches will keep China busy in 2021. Anticipated people to fly in space in 2021 on Shenzhou is 0.

India plans to develop a manned space capsule called Gaganyaan. The capsule will be able to carry 3 people. The first unmanned flight was planned for December 2021. The first manned flight is planned for 2022. Anticipated people to fly in space in 2021 on Gaganyaan is 0.

Monday, December 21, 2020

 Carol and I saw the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction on Sunday night December 20, 2020 at 5:10 PM CST, which is a day before the closest approach on Monday December 21, 2020. Seeing both planets in the same high power view (203 power with my Celestron 8 inch telescope with a 10mm lens) was very cool. I saw 4 of Jupiter moons. On the left (west compared to Jupiter) was Europa and Io and on the right Ganymede and Calisto. There was a star between Ganymede and Calisto that looked like a 5th moon but that is unlikely because the remaining moon are too dim. Analysis on the Internet said the separation between the 2 planets was 8.2 arc minutes, at my time my viewing, which is very close to the minimum occurring on Monday night with 6.3 arc minutes. The full moon by comparison is about 30 arc minutes or one half of a degree. Surprisingly, Saturn which is the dimmer planet, is to the north of Jupiter, so the ecliptic is not a perfect path for planets. It looked like the rings of Saturn are angled at 45 degrees compared to the plane of the moons around Jupiter. It has been a while since I had my telescope out, so I'm glad Carol was there to support me during my frustration with focusing my Celestron. The focusing knob has about 30 turns to it and I'm never sure when a good focus is coming. The crescent moon provided a good object to test it. I was also surprised on how fast the planets were setting in the south west. By 5:30 PM they were setting behind my neighbor's house. The planets will be pretty close for the upcoming week, so I encourage anyone to take a look any near future clear night. Good luck.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

email to MASS on Friday May 15, 2020


We are under 12 days to the launch of SpaceX’s DM-2 manned mission to the ISS.  The 2 astronauts went into quarantine yesterday. I haven’t heard anything preventing a launch on the scheduled date of Wednesday May 27, at 3:32 PM. Possibly the biggest unknown is weather. There has to be good weather at the launch pad, the downrange emergency splashdown area and the landing area for the Falcon 9 core stage. I probably won’t publish the zoom meeting # for our “watch party” until I see a good weather prediction during the Launch Readiness Review on Monday afternoon, May 25.
This weekend there will be a couple of rocket launches from Florida. On Saturday, May 16, the US Air Force will launch its spaceplane, the X-37B, for the 6th time, around 7:24 AM. Because of the secrecy of mission, there never is much information about the mission and the plane can spend up to 2 years in orbit before landing back in Florida.
On Sunday, May 17, SpaceX is scheduled to launch its 8th batch of 60 Starlink satellites. Launch is scheduled for 2:53 AM. This will bring the number of Starlink satellites up to 480. SpaceX will be using this Falcon 9 rocket for the 5th time which will tie their record for the most reuses of a booster.
If you get a chance, try the Dragon (DM-2) ISS Docking Simulator. Keith put a link to it on our website, massCosmos.org . Click on the title bar option of “ISS Docking Sim”. I’m only batting 1 for 4 on successful dockings. I usually get to within 5 meters before losing control. Hint: use the keyboard keys (a, s, d and w) for the position controls instead of mouse clicks. Also check out Scott Manley’s youtube tutorial, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pp4CTN6-kzQ for additional tips.
Jim