Rocket Update: 10 May 2022

May 11, 2022 | Daily Space, Rockets, Spacecraft, SpaceX, Starlink

IMAGE: A Long March-2D rocket carrying a group of eight satellites blasts off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China’s Shanxi Province, May 5, 2022. Satellite Jilin-1 Kuanfu 01C, together with seven Jilin-1 Gaofen 03D satellites, was lifted at 10:38 a.m. (Beijing Time) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in the northern province of Shanxi and soon entered the preset orbit. CREDIT: Zheng Bin/Xinhua

There were three launches over the weekend.

First up, a Long March 2D took off on May 5 carrying the Jilin 1 Kuanfu 1C imaging satellite and seven other smaller satellites from Taiyuan at 02:38 UTC. This launch debuted a new style of payload attach mechanism, to fit the 7 smallsats below the larger main satellite in the rocket’s fairing. The purpose of this is to completely use the rocket’s mass capability to orbit.

Second, SpaceX launched 53 more Starlink satellites on May 6 at 21:42 UTC, which was another twelfth flight of a booster – 1058, in this case. It has launched seven Starlink missions, among others. The launch also marked the 117th successful first stage landing, this time on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship.

The last launch over the weekend was another Chinese launch – the fourth Tianzhou resupply craft for the China Space Station. And we have the video for this one.

Tianzhou 4 launched on May 9 at 17:56 UTC on a Long March 7 from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Six and a half hours later, Tianzhou 4 docked to the Tianhe module, which is currently uncrewed. It joins Tianzhou 3 which is docked to the other end of the core module.

Tianzhou 4 carried about six metric tons of supplies to the station, which will be used by the Shenzhou 14 crew as they prepare for the “construction phase” of the station, where two more modules will be launched and docked to the station. 

China expects five more launches in support of its space station program this year – two crewed spacecraft, the two modules, and one more uncrewed resupply. Similar to the Progress and Cygnus resupply spacecraft, Tianzhou will be filled with trash and deorbited into an empty part of the ocean at the end of its mission.

This Long March 7 launch campaign was quicker than the last, taking only 27 days. According to Chinese sources, the rocket has seventeen improvements, and the countdown was also quicker because both propellants were loaded into the vehicle simultaneously.

The two launches the past few days were the 419th and 420th Long March family launches.

More Information

CASC press release

Starlink 4-17 mission page (SpaceX)

CASC press release

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